Power play: Port Adelaide’s bold moves will pay dividends… Eventually

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    Port Adelaide’s moves in this year’s trade period are those of a club that believes they are firmly in the premiership window, after some say they prematurely made a preliminary final in 2014.

    The acquisitions of Tom Rockliff, Steven Motlop, Jack Watts, Jack Trengove and Trent McKenzie made the Power one of the more active clubs in this year’s trade period.

    Their signings did come at a cost, with the departures of Jackson Trengove, Jarman Impey, Brendon Ah Chee, Aaron Young, Logan Austin and Matthew Lobbe, although all had found themselves playing SANFL at season’s end.

    However, I am not convinced these fresh faces will thrust Port into the top four in 2018.

    Although they finished fifth, Port Adelaide struggled to beat a top-eight team in 2017. Punishing every team below them allowed Port to finish with the second-best percentage, only to Adelaide, but their Achilles’ heel was their polish and predictability going inside forward 50.

    The signatures of Rockliff and Motlop certainly help to fill the void of polish – although not necessarily known for his finesse, Rockliff showed this year he can play as a crafty half forward.

    Family ties saw Motlop chose the Power over both the Crows and Gold Coast, in which can only be described as high-risk, high-reward move by the club. History tells us that you almost already know what you’re going to get when it comes to Motlop – 20 disposals and one goal a game, on average. But it’s the difference between his best and worst that has many questioning his impact next season.

    The speedster finished season 2017 with a career-high disposal efficiency of 74 per cent, which is something Port has been desperately searching for.

    This also highlights why they went after out-of-favour Demon Watts, who is among the best in the competition when it comes to efficient forward 50 entries. Port finished 13th in the competition for effective disposals per game in 2017, so Hinkley will be banking on the former number 1 pick bringing his elite leg.

    But what’s needed more than anything was a contested-marking tall forward, like Mitch McGovern or Jack Darling. Having another quality tall forward to complement Charlie Dixon would have allowed the club to finally put an end to their habit of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

    Dixon is one of the hardest working power forwards in the game and what he provides both up the ground and deep inside 50 cannot be undersold. However, when he is playing as that link-up player, Robbie Gray or Chad Wingard must play as the next best forwards options.

    Gray spent the majority of the year as a deep small forward. Whether this was by design or limitations caused by injury, his class in the midfield was sorely missed. He doesn’t get as much recognition as he deserves by interstate media, but Gray is one of the best one-on-one forwards in the competition – as we saw in this year’s Round 19 clash against St Kilda. Gray is a match winner and needs to be utilised with significantly more minutes in the midfield.

    Equally, when Dixon is playing as a deep forward, the Power are predictable in their forward 50 entries. High repeat entries to Dixon make defending easy for the quality intercept men of the competition.

    Playing as a forward, Dixon found himself double-teamed more often than not this season. However, if Port added another contested marking tall, it would make opposition defenders see Dixon in fewer two-on-one situations, resulting in him reach his true potential and stamping his place among the competition’s best power forwards.

    Port Adelaide fans should be extremely happy with the aggressive approach taken in chasing down the club’s second flag. With only two first-round selections since 2013, Port have put their future in the hands of their scouting and player development.

    Time will tell if these bold moves pay off, but more teams should take this aggressive approach.

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