The fifth part of this six-part series features the five players that the Port Adelaide Power, Richmond Tigers and St Kilda Saints can least afford to lose in season 2021 plus an honourable mention.
Special. That is the only way you can describe Port Adelaide’s effort on Saturday afternoon as Ken Hinkley’s men went over to Sydney and did what many thought was impossible to beat the rampant Swans at the SCG.
Following a 2014 season where the Power took the competition by storm and came within a kick of featuring in a grand final, things looked to be heading in the right direction.
Many tipped them to be a future dynasty.
However, all of this form and potential built up at the beginning of coach Ken Hinkley’s tenure quickly faded as two poor seasons where the team failed to qualify for the finals saw them fall to a team with “no direction” and a “washed up game plan.”
This negativity stayed with the Power throughout the off season, with many predicting that 2017 would spell the end for Ken Hinkley and the beginning of a fresh list rebuild. So, heading over to Sydney last weekend nobody gave the Power any chance of producing an upset.
The might of the Swans juggernaut, fresh from another grand final appearance, was said be too much for this perennial under performer.
Nobody told the players this.
From start to finish Port put in a truly spectacular performance as their endeavour on the ball, execution of skills and exciting ball movement saw the young Power side dominate the veteran Swans and claim a 28-point victory. Led superbly by captain Travis Boak and midfield maestros Ollie Wines and Brad Ebert, Port looked to be a rejuvenated side on Saturday afternoon as they finally looked to take the game on again and play that running game that saw them become one of the AFL’s most feared sides in 2014.
So, what happened?
Having been underestimated throughout the entire lead up to this season, many forgot the quality of the Power’s list as injuries and inconsistency constantly marred both Hinkley and the team over the past two seasons.
This can be seen through the captain’s vote for which sides would qualify for the top eight, as no opposition leader saw Port as a top eight side in 2017.
Thus, with no expectation and a mountain of pressure on their coach the team was able to galvanise and get back to the basic fundamentals of Hinkley’s game plan.
This was evident throughout Saturday’s games as Port Adelaide’s disposal efficiency (69%) was much better than in previous seasons, which then allowed them to move the ball with more distinction and pace.
Throughout the broadcast, the commentators kept referring to it as seeing the Power of old back on the park which is not just exciting for Port supporters but the AFL as a whole. At their best they are a truly breathtaking team to watch.
Along with the return of a well-executed game plan, off season additions also had a pivotal impact on Port Adelaide’s Round 1 performance.
The return of Paddy Ryder in particular proved to be extremely influential. This could be seen through Port’s remarkable midfield improvement as Ryder not only gave his midfielders first use of the ball, but also provided the team with a presence around the ground they desperately lacked in 2016.
2016 first round draft pick Sam Powell-Pepper also had a large influence for Port on debut as his hardness over the ball and love of the contest saw him break the game open and swing momentum into his teams favour at critical moments.
The form of incumbents such as Ollie Wines, Brad Ebert, Travis Boak, Charlie Dixon and Jack Hombsch was also critical to the Power’s performance at the SCG as they all managed to stand up at different moments. Wines in particular proved to the world that he is one of the competitions best young players, as his 33 disposals were the catalyst for Port’s dramatic improvement in all aspects of the game.
So, now that we have seen what the Power can produce, the big question is can they sustain this high level of football for long periods and push towards the finals and beyond? Plagued by their inconsistency in past seasons, it must be a ‘one week at a time’ attitude for Port at the moment as they look to build themselves into a genuine contender.
That all starts with the Dockers at Adelaide Oval next Sunday afternoon, which looms as a must win clash for Hinkley and his men if they are to prove to the AFL world that they are the real deal in 2017.
Despite the quality of Saturday’s performance against the Swans, it is still too early say whether the power is back for the men at Alberton. However, the early signs look good for both Power fans and Ken Hinkley himself as they hope to see their side push up past mediocrity and back into finals contention.