Welcome to the top four. We are in the endgame now.
I apologise for the delay in getting this one out unfortunately I was waylaid by a tree branch falling on my head leaving me concussed and a good old harry potter scar on my forehead.
Today’s team is the Port Adelaide Power.
They’re probably the team that has the greatest tendency to be a downhill skier. They beat the teams they were supposed to beat but were found out against higher quality opposition.
The Power had a good season; however, I think other sides have advanced ahead of them in the pecking order that is the AFL ladder.
In this piece we will go over what the Power did well, what they did poorly, questions that remain, how they can improve, the best and fairest as well as a letter grade before finishing off with a prediction as to where they’ll finish next year.
Port Adelaide Power have been frequent and shrewd traders for the past five years either bringing in players for their needs or picks like they did in 2018. At the end of 2020 they brought in Orazio Fantasia as a young small pressure forward and Aliir Aliir as the pickup of last years trade period as an intercepting defender. These two players assisted with the Port Adelaide Power contending for another premiership.
Orazio Fantasia was a homesick wantaway forward who brought an added element of class to the Port forward line. He brought more forward class to kick 28 goals from his fifteen games in a massive return on investment for a second-round pick.
While Aliir Aliir was even greater in his importance for the Port defensive structures, he led Port for Intercept marks (87), intercept possessions (206), and contested one on ones (119). Moreover, despite the pressure that Aliir was under he only lost 20 contested one on ones to put him in elite company and earn his first All Australian selection at centre half back.
Aliir’s abilities were complimented by the willingness of his fellow defenders to play in such a way that suited his ability to zone off and out mark opponents. The one issue was if a defensive forward tag Aliir out of games he couldn’t figure out how to get around it, I believe in order to work his way through the tag Ken Hinkley needs to be willing to experiment with playing Aliir up the field to allow him to get involved in the play.
Led by their Brownlow medallist in Oli Wines the Port Adelaide midfield is something to be envious of. Yes they do lack depth behind Wines and Travis Boak but you don’t get to 71 collective Brownlow Votes without doing something right.
Wines was third in the league for disposals with 777 at an average of 32.4 disposals per match while also being elite for metres gained (435.3), contested disposals (14.7), clearances (5.9) and score involvements (6.4).
Playing second fiddle in the guts we have Travis Boak who became the oldest player to poll 25 Brownlow votes in a season along with 27.8 disposals and 6.3 clearances to continue to show why his best position is at the coal face. The one question that remains is where is the depth?
Yes, the Power have some good young guns coming through like Conor Rozee, Xavier Dursuma, Lachie Jones and Zac Butters. However, they’ve played primarily as flankers or wing not inside relying on the distribution of the two aforementioned bulls.
The Power either need to begin developing these players as inside midfielders even if they’re cameo performances the Power were caught out by the strength of the Bulldogs in this area going –23 in contested possessions in the first quarter alone.
If the Power are to exploit the fading years of Robbie Gray and Travis Boak they will need to be willing to find other distributors pf the ball.
What Didn’t Work
The Power are perhaps the ultimate downhill skiers across the competition. But as I have said in many comments on this site, I do not believe being a downhill skier is a criticism, it is beating the sides you are supposed to beat.
What is a criticism however was the meek fashion they frequently found themselves on the receiving end of, we will go through the specifics of that here.
The Power’s season is one dominated with the tag that they were mentally weak; they were ill prepared for the rigours of Australian Rules football when things didn’t go their way. The Power lost five games in the home and away season, and all came against opposition was then equal or higher than them in standing leading to them being tarred and feathered with the brush they were downhill skiers.
Exacerbating matters was the fact that their average losing margin in these games was 45.2 points which is sure to have a depressive feature on their overall percentage and vitally important when it comes to determining the make-up of the final eight.
I specifically want to mention the preliminary final against the Western Bulldogs. . The Power appeared to just think the match would be served up to them on a silver platter giving them their first grand final appearance since their ill-fated 2007 MCG trip where they faced a red-hot Geelong outfit.
Yet the idiom that is all too frequently attributed to Mike Tyson, applies here: “everyone has a plan until they’re punched in the face”. The Bulldogs metaphorically punched the Power in the face when everyone expected them to meekly give up after three weeks on the road.
However, the Bulldogs were +23 in contested possession in the first quarter alone and Ken Hinkley failed to nulify the essence that makes the Bulldogs so talented. I go into detail here because I believe that this is illustrative of the mental complacency that has driven Port Adelaide astray in their ten years under Ken Hinkley.
I think they will need to reduce the gap between their worst football and their best football if they wish to make it to the promised land.
Their Aging Spine
Charlie Dixon, Tom Jonas, Travis Boak, Scott Lycett and Trent McKenzie are all 29-31 years of age. Given the modern rigours of Australian rules football their advanced age may form the albatross around their neck when you consider that Steven Motlop and Robbie Gray are also both the wrong side of thirty.
It leaves matters falling to a young core that is not yet ready, I am certain that Hinkley would’ve hoped that Zac Butters, Xavier Dursma, and Conor Rozee would’ve been ready to take the next step. But each of these players are either not ready (due to injury in Butters’ case), or unsuitable as they play the wrong position.
Moreover, they lack the successor to Charlie Dixon as Todd Marshall has largely failed to fire as a key forward and Mitch Georgiades is more of a half forward flanker rather than a key forward in his own right. Outside of Oli Lord they lack the mid-career key forward that can stand under balls and take the oppositions best key defender.
Now Port fans are going to point out Jeremy Finlayson as a suitable replacement, and yes in 2019 he did kick 44 goals, but Leon Cameron only swung him forward because they had nowhere else to put him. I don’t think he can become the central target for a forward line, and believe he is a less than ideal candidate given his tendency to drop his head when things don’t go his way.
Questions that remain
How much more can they ask of Travis Boak and Robbie Gray?
Gray and Boak are magnificent servants of the Port Adelaide Football Club. However, when they’re both nearly into their mid-thirties you need to question the sanity of any side that relies so heavily on the output of players such as this.
I don’t deny that at their best each player was probably worthy of a Brownlow medal, however, who their successor is, is not immediately apparent with the Port seeming to drag their careers on for one more year while their youth develop.
Will they be up again next year?
This is somewhat related to the previous question. With an aging list and not immediately obvious successors apparent it is going to require some creativity from Hinkley and his list management team.
Additionally, they were minor premiers in 2020 and 2nd in 2021 so if they’re to win a premiership they need to make a charge now and they need to do it while their elder statesmen still have some footy left in them.
Build Depth in the Midfield
Now Im not sure if they should do this in the draft, or develop it from their current group of youngsters, or maybe even they should recruit established talent. But the midfield urgently requires a player that can go with Oli Wines and Travis Boak permanently.
I think the ideal solution is Jaegar O’meara or Tom Mitchell from Hawthorn. A single first round pick should do it; however, they can also look to develop players they already have on the list like Jackson Mead who was rated as a first round talent or Lachie Jones their academy pick from last year’s draft or even Zac Butters.
Deploy Trent McKenzie as a medium tall defender
McKenzie aka the superboot is not a key defender. We should not continue to pretend he is. Standing at 1.91 metres he should be deployed as a medium tall defender in the form of a Jake Kelly or Jordan Ridley where he peels off and intercepts using his superior distribution by foot to repel attacking forays.
Best and Fairest: Ollie Wines
He finished a massive 62 votes clear of second place getter Travis Boak to win the John Cahill medal with 229 votes. Wines has taken his game to a new level this year and it shows with a best and fairest medal plus a Brownlow Medal for the Echuca native. He seems to relish the reduce pressure that comes with no longer being the joint captain of the Power.
Letter Grade: B-.
The Power did well to make a preliminary final so that justifies them getting at least a B-. However, the reason it’s not a B+ is they were smashed in the preliminary final against an exhausted and worse opposition. They were unable to deal with the defensive forward job that Josh Scahche did on Aliir and it nullified the rebound that he has been able to provide this year.
Way Too Early Prediction: 5th to 12th
I believe the loss in the preliminary final is going to have some impacts on their psyche going forward. I also believe that Boak and Gray are both a year older and are just that much more likely to experience a decline.
I believe the Port mafia on this website are somewhat correct in that if Hinkley was going to win a premiership he would’ve done it already.
There you have it folks, join me tomorrow when I talk about the AFL’s retirement village the Geelong Cats.
As always leave your feedback in the comments and I will try my best to respond.