2017 AFL preview series: Port Adelaide Power – 13th

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    After a few years of “will the real Port Adelaide please stand up?” it appears we have our answer about the Power.

    The ‘real’ Port are rank average; a middle-of-the-table side that can harness momentum from time to time, but also a team that can get ahead of themselves and be easily shut down.

    Port hung around the fringes of the eight last year without ever looking likely to break in. For every impressive win, like the Round 10 and 11 beltings of Melbourne in the Northern Territory and Collingwood at the MCG, there would be an abject performance, like throwing in the towel against Sydney and the Demons in Rounds 20 and 21.

    Ken Hinkley and his coaching team have dedicated their off-season to drilling down into themselves, their players, their style and their method. Will this lead to paralysis-by-analysis for a club that turned around its fortunes four seasons ago on the simple premises of hard work, fitness and freedom?

    Port Adelaide Power’s best 22

    B Matthew Broadbent Jack Hombsch Jarman Impey
    HB Jasper Pittard Jackson Trengove Darcy Byrne-Jones
    C Hamish Hartlett Robbie Gray Brad Ebert
    HF Aaron Young Justin Westhoff Chad Wingard
    F Brett Eddy Charlie Dixon Jake Neade
    Foll Patrick Ryder Ollie Wines Travis Boak
    Int Tom Jonas Jared Polec Nathan Krakouer Sam Powell-Pepper

    Emergencies: Matthew Lobbe, Matthew White, Angus Monfries

    The list changes at Port over the off-season were among the least obviously impactful in the league. They offloaded a number of jobbers and brought in some draftees. However, they will welcome the return of Patrick Ryder and Angus Monfries from WADA suspensions.

    Monfries may or may not be in the best side, but Ryder will be seen as a key plank in what the Power are hoping to achieve this season. He is expected to harness his athletic gifts after a year out of the system and lead the ruck division with his combination of deft palmwork, ability to follow-up at ground level, and contested marking.

    The Power aren’t just getting back a quality ruckman with the return of Ryder, but also a quality centre-half back in the form of Jackson Trengove, who had to spend his 2016 battling manfully but getting outmatched in the ruck. The team looks a lot better with them both back in their rightful place

    That said, it appears Trengove might be played as a forward this season, which would be a costly mistake. With the ex-Essendon players returning, it may pay to look at a couple of Dons like Michael Hurley and Jake Carlisle (now at St Kilda) who are natural defenders but were forced to play forward for lengthy periods across their careers, which did nothing for their team or themselves.

    Jack Hombsch is a quality key defender who looks likely to be supported by Tom Clurey or Logan Austin now, so a lot of onus will be on inexperienced shoulders in that supporting tall position.

    The run from defence will be provided by Jasper Pittard, who cracked the All-Australian squad of 40 last season with his chip-and-charge style, Matthew Broadbent, who launches long attacks with his lethal right foot, and Darcy Byrne-Jones, who is something of a Pittard mimic, and plays with a confidence belying his small amount of senior games.

    Robbie Gray is the master of the midfield, a smooth-moving Ferrari surrounded by a fleet of Fords. Gray is comfortably in the top 20 players in the game in most eyes, possessing dancing feet in stoppages, superb vision and skill, and ever-dangerous when resting near goal.

    Robbie Gray Port Adelaide Power AFL 2015

    Travis Boak is willing, and can be a big moment player, but his lack of class prevents him from joining the top echelon. Ollie Wines is an inside bull but is too often untidy. Brad Ebert is another that doesn’t lack for hardness, but does for skill.

    This overall lack of polish is a problem for the Power, but there are some solutions available to them.

    Hamish Hartlett has been a frustration for too long now. He was moved to half-back last year, but the Power have plenty of running rebounders, so he should be released to play as a forward-running wingman. Hartlett’s best years were 2013-14 when he played this role, averaging 21 touches a game and hitting the scoreboard no less than 74 times across the two seasons.

    Chad Wingard is rumoured to be moving more into the middle this year, where his wizardry will be welcome in an area of the ground where Port can look one-dimensional. In 2013, just his second year, Wingard averaged 21 touches per game and kicked 43 goals, earning All-Australian honours and a best-and-fairest award. Let’s get back to that please.

    Charlie Dixon and Justin Westhoff are not yet producing the sum of their parts as tandem forwards. Dixon must find consistency – he kicked 26 goals in his first ten games for the Power last year, but only four from his last eight, and none at all in his last four. Westhoff has to rid himself of dumb decisions, but you can’t un-crack an egg.

    Aaron Young was a revelation as a medium forward last year, and perhaps mature-age rookie Brett Eddy can cause problems inside forward 50 as a key marking target. Are he, Dixon, Westhoff and potentially Trengove all mobile enough to play in the same half of the ground?

    Port lacked composure and skill when moving the ball last year. It could look good when someone like Pittard took the opposition on and found a target cutting inside, but too often they weren’t able to make it work. Opposition sides would pressure the main ball carriers, knowing that it wasn’t difficult to force a turnover if you could clog them up.

    Ken Hinkley has two years left on his contract, which may give him more freedom than the likes of Damien Hardwick and Nathan Buckley will be granted, but the pressure is well and truly on. Who gets first call when changes need to be made to the team – the experienced hands like Matthew Lobbe, Matty White, Angus Monfries and Sam Gray, or will it be Brendon Ah Chee, Karl Amon, Riley Bonner and the draftees?

    Does Hinkley have the board’s backing to re-set for the future if the season looks like slipping away? Or will he be chasing wins, figuring they are the best currency, even if it means another mid-table finish?

    It’s hard to see evolution or revolution at Port in 2017. More likely is a steady decline as teams like Melbourne, Collingwood, Richmond and Gold Coast, which finished behind them on the ladder in 2016, go past them this year.

    Predicted ladder spread: 11th-14th

    Predicted finish: 13th

    Best and fairest: Robbie Gray

    Leading goalkicker: Chad Wingard

    All-Australian potential: Robbie Gray, Chad Wingard

    Rising Star candidates: Riley Bonner, Sam Powell-Pepper

    Cam Rose’s AFL preview series ladder

    13th – Port Adelaide
    14th – Fremantle
    15th – Essendon
    16th – North Melbourne
    17th – Carlton
    18th – Brisbane

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.

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    The Crowd Says (21)

    • March 6th 2017 @ 8:00am
      Theeva Kumar said | March 6th 2017 @ 8:00am | ! Report

      Port to finish 9th or is that reserved for the tigers?

      • Columnist

        March 6th 2017 @ 3:50pm
        Cameron Rose said | March 6th 2017 @ 3:50pm | ! Report

        The Roos have finished 9th three times this decade. Perhaps the jokes should move on to them? We can call them Ninth Melbourne.

    • March 6th 2017 @ 8:29am
      Birdman said | March 6th 2017 @ 8:29am | ! Report

      IMHO perhaps the best list outside the top 8 but can’t find the necessary consistency.

      • Columnist

        March 6th 2017 @ 3:51pm
        Cameron Rose said | March 6th 2017 @ 3:51pm | ! Report

        I can’t agree with that. There’s quite a bit of limited stuff on their list, and they don’t have anywhere near enough class.

    • March 6th 2017 @ 8:39am
      Sammy said | March 6th 2017 @ 8:39am | ! Report

      For port to be challenging for the top 8 would need everything to go right for them in terms of form and injury. There seems to be a number of teams that are on the improve and that will make it even tougher for them. Hinkley is in the must or bust year and if port tread water he might be gone at the end of the year

      • Columnist

        March 6th 2017 @ 3:53pm
        Cameron Rose said | March 6th 2017 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

        Definitely a huge year for Hinkley. They’ve got what looks a reasonable up until their Round 9 bye. if they’re in the negative heading into that, it’s going to be a long way back.

    • March 6th 2017 @ 9:04am
      Franko said | March 6th 2017 @ 9:04am | ! Report

      As a port supporter, sadly I agree.

      Forward entries are diabolical, the game yesterday showed they aren’t getting any better.

      The cattle is probably there, so it’s time Ken did us a favour and fell on his sword. I shudder at round 1 away to sydney….

      • Columnist

        March 6th 2017 @ 3:54pm
        Cameron Rose said | March 6th 2017 @ 3:54pm | ! Report

        I didn’t see yesterday’s game Franko, but it didn’t sound great.

    • Roar Guru

      March 6th 2017 @ 10:02am
      Liam Sheedy said | March 6th 2017 @ 10:02am | ! Report

      If Jake Neade is being selected in the first 18 the team is in trouble. The fact he has not been included in any of the pre-season games thus far gives me confidence he will not be in the mix for selection early in the year. I think the coaches have realised until he offers something in the form of actual possessions or impacting the scoreboard there is not a place for someone as just a pressure forward. Even as a pressure forward he doesn’t do a lot apart from running around trying to look busy.

      A complete lack of AFL standard skills will continue to be the major issue. A lot of work required before round 1. While the stupidity of contracts like Lobbe and Hartlett are well documented the club continue to make dumb decisions. Tom Jonas has had a dreadful two years so what do Port do….Give him a 3 year deal. They simply do not learn. Tom Clurey should get the nod in the starting 18.

      Of that listed 22 I suspect Impey will spend more time forward where he finished last year off in ok form. But again like many of his teammates he burns the ball way too frequently. Along with Powell-Pepper I think Atley has done enough to warrant round 1 selection and Dan Houston may be a bit of smokey.

      The ball use going forward is nothing short of disgraceful. The issue with Charlie Dixon apart from injury history is his lack of scoreboard impact. 1 goal in 2 pre-season games to follow up the zero he kicked in the last four games last year rightly has Port fans concerned.

      Need a good performance this week against the Hawks to just try and generate some positivity around the club.

      • Columnist

        March 6th 2017 @ 3:58pm
        Cameron Rose said | March 6th 2017 @ 3:58pm | ! Report

        Quality commentary Liam. I agree on the skill level.

        I wasn’t sure about the need for Ryder in the first place, and I had really expected Dixon to iron out his inconsistency by now. On his day, he is a fierce, hard-charging, pack-busting full-forward, with great hands a beautiful kick, but his day doesn’t come around often enough.

    • Roar Rookie

      March 6th 2017 @ 10:27am
      Lamby said | March 6th 2017 @ 10:27am | ! Report

      The difference between Port’s best and their worst is probably the greatest in the comp. The trouble is, as a Crows supporter, they always seem to reserve their ‘best’ for the Showdowns. Take last year, 2 weeks before they played the Crows in 22 they play ‘I don’t care about this game, make sure I don’t get injured, and I will go thru the motions to make sure I can give it all in the Showdown’ games and get thumped by the Swans and lose insipidly to the Demons when their season is on the line! Against the Crows they play like a top 4 side (except they played Jimmy Toumpas who kept kicking the ball back to the Crows and lost them the game). Until Hinkley can get the attitude and effort right then the Power won’t make the 8.

      • Columnist

        March 6th 2017 @ 4:25pm
        Cameron Rose said | March 6th 2017 @ 4:25pm | ! Report

        The gap between their best and worst is a poor reflection on the players and coaches, no doubt about it. There was no excuse for those shameful performances against the Swans and Dees.

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