When reports emerged GWS forward Jeremy Finlayson had completed a medical at Port Adelaide, it received a perplexed reaction throughout the AFL community.
In the wake of their shock preliminary final loss to the Western Bulldogs, the Power have made their intentions quite clear: they’re retooling for another premiership run in 2021.
After expressing significant interest in Sydney defender-turned-winger Jordan Dawson, the news of Finlayson’s medical at Alberton received mostly a shocked reaction. Why?
For Finlayson, Fox Sports has revealed it’s a move for family reasons. The 25-year-old and his partner recently started a family, and with the COVID-19 issues impacting both New South Welsh clubs, they are looking to move closer to family ties partner Kellie has in Port Lincoln.
With how the past two years have unfolded across not only the country but the globe, it’s a more than understandable reason as to why Finlayson and his young family would make that decision.
As for the Power, it may not be so clear cut.
For large stretches of this season Port Adelaide lined up with four tall forwards – almost unheard of at the elite level.
Charlie Dixon, Mitch Georgiades and Todd Marshall as permanent forwards, while Peter Ladhams served as relief ruckman to Scott Lycett, allowing Dixon to play all of his minutes inside forward 50.
So why would the Power be interested in a contracted player who doesn’t necessarily fit a gap in their list during a premiership tilt?
Dixon and Georgiades look to be the locks for key-position forward roles at Port Adelaide. Dixon was the Power’s leading goal kicker for a third time this season, while Georgiades had a breakout season, booting 32 goals in 21 games before a hamstring injury ended his season.
Then there is Marshall, a known favourite of Power coach Ken Hinkley. While the 22-year-old hasn’t yet produced an attention-grabbing season such as Georgiades 2021, Marshall has demonstrated year-on-year improvement and shown enough potential for a key position prospect. With the backing of Hinkley, it’s hard to see Marshall being forced out.
Which brings us to Ladhams. A Port Adelaide SANFL recruit, the ruck-forward has yet to carve out a required niche within the Power’s best 22. He’s behind Lycett for the No. 1 ruck spot, and with Georgiades coming into his own, he has slipped to the fourth key forward in the pecking order.
Ladhams’s ruck craft looks to be his strength, but he’s firmly entrenched behind Lycett with the highly rated Sam Hayes developing at the lower level. Not to mention that, as a pinch-hit ruckman, Charlie Dixon is more than capable.
This is where a potential Finlayson inclusion factors in. Finlayson is a more natural forward who can pinch hit in the ruck – he’s the reverse of Ladhams. The Power finished second on the home-and-away ladder with the line-up of four tall forwards; replacing Ladhams with Finlayson would give Port a forward-ruck who will spend more time inside forward 50 rather than a ruck-forward.
It could even be a straight swap given Greater Western Sydney’s thin ruck stocks, and with only a year to run on Ladhams contract, it could be a tidy piece of pre-agency work by the Power.
However, there is another potential avenue, albeit less likely, to hypothesis when discussing Finlayson’s potential move to Alberton.
When Finlayson debuted in 2017 it was as a key defender. This continued before a switch forward in 2019, although Finlayson showed he is more than capable of playing a key defensive role.
Port Adelaide currently have two superb key defenders in captain Tom Jonas and All Australian Aliir Aliir. Jonas is your hard-nosed, competitive beast defender who will never surrender, while Aliir is an intercepting savant who reads the opposition like a book and turns defence into scores.
The other two in that conversation are the cannon-footed Trent McKenzie and the seemingly out-of-favour Tom Clurey, who has been rumoured but seems unlikely to be on the move.
As it stands at the end 2021 McKenzie is the favoured third key defender at Port, which leaves Port with no defenders taller than 195 centimetres – Aliir at 194 centimetres is the tallest, while Jonas at 188 centimetres is the smallest.
If we look at the key forwards for Saturday’s grand final, Tom McDonald is the shortest among six talls expected to line up across both clubs, standing at 195 centimetres.
It’s fair to say the Power defence lacks size, while Finlayson stands at 197 centimetres.
Port Adelaide could view Finlayson as an old-school utility-type proposition or maybe as a genuine swingman in the vein of Alastair Lynch at Fitzroy or Adam Hunter at West Coast – able to play in multiple positions and provide flexibility at the selection table and on game day.
Or an even less likely hypothesis, nothing but speculation, are the rumours surrounding Georgiades.
Now, while Georgiades hasn’t signalled any intent to depart Alberton – he is contracted until the end of 2023 – Fox Footy divulged months ago the most famous list manager in the game, Essendon’s Adrian Dodoro, was infatuated with the key forward. Dodoro allegedly views the young forward as the perfect piece to fit in Essendon’s forward line of the future with Harrison Jones and Peter Wright.
Could the Power be preemptively shoring up their key forward stocks if the Bombers were to offer the rising star a godfather offer with a year to run on his contract and Port’s premiership window still ajar?
The reality is no-one knows. However, Finlayson’s size and versatility may be the enticing lure as to why the Power have seemingly had initial talks with the wantaway Giant.
Whether that’s to help in retooling the look of their forward 50, a savvy bit of list management, an important injection of size or a combination of all three, we won’t know the exact reasons until the deal is done and he dons the Power strip in Round 1.