Port Adelaide simply never got going in 2016, missing the finals in disappointing fashion for a second straight year.
The Power are running out of time to prove 2014 wasn’t just a flash in the pan, but have they done enough to deliver on their promise and get back to September football?
Let’s have a look at the list changes made in the off-season.
Additions: Todd Marshall, Sam Powell-Pepper, Joe Atley, Willem Drew, Peter Ladhams, Brett Eddy, Jarrod Lienert, Emmanuel Ira (draft).
Subtractions: Alipate Carlile (retired), Jay Schulz, John Butcher, Kane Mitchell, Paul Stewart, Cam O’Shea, Sam Colquhoun (delisted).
What happened last year?
The first five weeks of 2016 were a clear indication that the dominant Port of 2014 weren’t coming back anytime soon.
A complete non-performance in the Showdown, as well as embarrassing losses to GWS and Geelong had the Power well off the pace of their past selves and the top eight.
The club rebounded somewhat to sit at a respectable 6-5 at the halfway point of the season, but the club couldn’t string together consecutive wins in a spluttering second half to the year that saw them finish 10-12 and in 10th place.
With the team reportedly tight against the salary cap, Port Adelaide were virtually dormant in the trade period.
The Power took part in one deal – a draft pick swap with Sydney – and while this didn’t bring in any established recruits, it did see them select twice in both the first and second rounds of the draft.
The Essendon ASADA suspensions saw Port Adelaide lose both Paddy Ryder and Angus Monfries last year, and while there were murmurs that Angus Young’s emergence had the club looking to ship off Monfries, both will make their welcome return to the line-up this year.
What needs to happen in 2017?
If they’re to have any hope of improving in 2017, Port Adelaide must use the ball better.
Much of the Power’s stat sheet makes for surprisingly pleasant reading considering they’ve missed the finals for two years straight. They averaged the second-most clearances per game in 2016 despite having easily the worst hit-out differential (-21!) in the competition.
As far as other averages-per-game, the club also finished fifth in inside 50s and third in tackles.
Despite a turnaround in fortunes, the contested possession and uncontested possession numbers Port put every week are extremely similar to the ones they were notching during their scintillating 2014 campaign.
Ken Hinkley’s charges clearly put in a solid level of effort, but this has counted for naught on too many occasions because of league-worst disposal efficiency.
The Power’s disposal efficiency of 70.7 per cent put them at the bottom of the table last year, with the club also averaging 58 outright clangers a game – five more than the next worst offender. This rendered the impressive numbers Port put up elsewhere on the stat-sheet to nothing but bookkeeping.
Port only plucked marks from 74 (ten contested) of their 200 kicks a game. Their 55 entries inside 50 a game only yielded ten marks. Only the Brisbane Lions got less bang for their buck with the boot in 2016.
For all the hard work the Power put in around the ground, they continually find themselves battling their own skills just as much their opponents, and not even the best game plan in the world will save them if this doesn’t improve dramatically.
Ryder and Monfries will add a bit more to the team than people may realise in 2016, the boost they provide in the ruck and up forward mean nothing if their teammates can’t hit targets.