Port Adelaide have copped a fair bit of criticism this year for their inability to win games against teams above them on the ladder but they still find themselves sitting in fourth position.
While this has been due to teams around them not getting the job done against the teams you’d expect them too, Port are definitely a more consistent team than what they have been in previous years – and if you’re going to lose, I’d rather be losing to contenders than to teams below you on the ladder.
In 2017, 2018 and 2019, Port were consistent at being inconsistent and winning the games they weren’t supposed to but then mentally dropping off and losing the games we were meant to win.
Call it blind faith but I’m hoping that’s a sign of maturity over the last two years.
Port is lacking a player or two in the midfield and maybe even one extra taller bigger back man. It looks as if Ken Hinkley may have finally succumbed to playing Jarrod Lienert in front of Tom Clurey, whereas in the past Lienert was the one to pay the price and been dropped, despite not actually playing a bad game from what I remember.
Whether this is enough against the likes of Geelong, Bulldogs, Melbourne or Brisbane at full strength is yet to be seen.
We definitely need one extra high-end midfielder who can win his own ball and play on the outside but between Zak Butters and Xavier Duursma hopefully coming back, the two combined could be at least the equivalent of that one extra midfielder that can do both.
Another wild card could be Tom Rockcliff. At his best, Rocky is a pig and his experience is a big plus. The questions are whether he gets back into the SANFL, as he’s planning to in Round 22, and whether he brings enough flexibility or would he, Ollie Wines and Travis Boak be too much of the same?
On the positive side of things, Rocky could take some of the pressure off of Ollie and Boak, as both seem to be doing most of the heavy lifting themselves.
Hamish Hartlett is an interesting one. In hindsight, Hinkley probably should have put him back to the Magpies a bit earlier – Hartlett himself earlier in the year said he was down on confidence but the coach kept him in the team, which I don’t think worked – but ‘Hammer’ now looks a lot better, has his confidence up again, plus his hardness at the ball is underestimated by a lot of people. He makes those around him stand taller and his on-field leadership is irreplaceable.
I’d rate Hartlett somewhere between Damien Hardwick and Luke Hodge as a player – he’s got the Hardwick hardness but can get more of it and use it a lot better when his confidence is up. Obviously he’s not at the level of Hodge as a player, but his leadership, hardness and ability to put his head over the ball and lift his teammates is probably at the same level of importance for Port as Hodge was for Hawthorn.
Last but not least, Butters has defied the odds and was somehow trying to press his case to play against the Saints on the weekend, so barring me jinxing the poor kid, if he gets through training this week, he could line up against Collingwood with Dursma and maybe Hartlett as well.
Nobody wants to use injuries as excuse and all teams have them but if you take into calculations the injuries Port have had to cover, the team has done a pretty good job so far.
With the above players, add Robbie Gray, Orazio Fantasia, Conner Rozee and Daniel Motlop to be ready before the start of finals and things may not be as bad as they seem.