They were a kick away from a Grand Final just two years ago but last season was a massive disappointment. They failed to live up to increased expectations and now face a situation where they need to prove to the AFL world where they sit in the pecking order; is it their 2014 form or their 2015 form? There seems to be far too much talent for them to drop away and repeat 2015, so look for Port to rise back up again
Port Adelaide - 5th
B: Jack Hombsch, Alipate Carlile, Jarman Impey
HB: Matthew Broadbent, Jackson Trengove, Jasper Pittard
C: Hamish Hartlett, Travis Boak, Jared Polec
HF: Brad Ebert, Charlie Dixon, Chad Wingard
F: Justin Westhoff, Jay Schulz, Jake Neade
R: Matthew Lobbe, Ollie Wines, Robbie Gray
INT: Brendon Ah Chee, Jimmy Toumpas, Matt White, Sam Gray
Schulz is capable of the odd big bag but nearing the end and would benefit from proving he is more than solely a lead-up player. At his age he is limited and will struggle to make an impact when not on song with the pace of today’s game. Dixon is a reasonably low-risk, high-reward proposition for the Power; Gold Coast lost patience with his off-field problems and chronic ankle issues but the Port Adelaide medical staff are hopeful they can have Dixon ready to be what he has long threatened to be – one of the league’s most dominant big forwards who can play in the ruck if necessary. With a clean injury run and given a good relationship with Ken Hinkley, Dixon’s best could be a difference maker.
Westhoff is one of the best utilities in the league, with some midfield time not out of the question. He remains most effective as a forward who swings down back when necessary and can ruck as well, with his versatility making him one of the Power’s most important players. Wingard was one of the more exhilarating players in the AFL last season but is not just an excitement machine; he has a very comparable record to Cyril Rioli, albeit with far less hype surrounding him. With 40 plus goals over the last three years and about to turn 23 years of age, a true breakout may be just around the corner for this young gun.
If all the variables go the way of the Power, this forward line could well turn out to be better than this rating but there are a few uncertainties that keep it as a mid-range group.
Forward line – 6/10
While it is a largely no-name group, there is a good balance down back for the Power. Carlile and Trengove provide solid service when up and about; both were sorely missed throughout 2015 as both battled injuries, with Tom Jonas playing a role in covering their absences. The Port defence conceded the 8th most points per game in 2015, a far cry from 2014 when they had the 3rd best defence in the AFL. This drop-off was also reflected in their opponent inside 50 numbers; they conceded the 2nd least in the league in 2014 but fell to 8th in this category last season. The Power big backmen being unable to consistently get on the field played a significant role in their 2015 struggles.
The runners are aplenty in this backline, with Broadbent and Pittard in particular a key source of run from the half back line. Both have had a good season in the last two, and will be relied upon to provide the run and drive that made Port’s 2014 resurgence such an impressive spectacle. Polec may well accompany these two on the half back line throughout the season as the midfield depth should allow his leg speed to be used in this role.
Backline rating – 6/10
This is one of the best midfields in the AFL and the one that could well dominate the next 4-6 years given the age and quality of the key players. Boak is one of the more impressive leaders in the AFL, a contested ball stud who has thrived as captain and at 27 may well be entering his absolute prime. Wines stands toe-to-toe with any young star in the game, with his first two seasons matching the very best young talent of the last 20 years for both impact and quality. He will be looking to respond strongly following an injury-ravaged 2015 and get back to his bullish best.
Robbie Gray has gone from dangerous small forward to lethal midfielder, ranking among the league leaders in clearances and contested possessions last season. He may play more forward with Wines back, but figures to remain among the most potent players in the league regardless.
Ebert and Sam Gray round out an outstanding first five midfielders, with Ebert in particular having rejuvenated a flagging career at Alberton after being headed towards mediocrity in his time at the West Coast Eagles. The loss of Paddy Ryder hurts the ruck division, with significant pressure on Lobbe to recapture his form of 2014 and enable Dixon and Westhoff to remain backup options as opposed to being relied on to shoulder a large load.
While their uncontested possession differential remained consistent between 2014 and 2015 (they ranked 5th in both seasons) their contested possession performance dropped off markedly last season, and they will be looking at a full-strength midfield to provide arguably the best group of contested possession players of any team in the AFL.
Midfield rating – 8/10
Their fixture in 2015 was far more difficult than it was in 2014, a result of their jump up the ladder. Just the same, their poor 2015 has resulted in a better 2016 fixture as they get perennial strugglers Brisbane, Melbourne and GWS on two occasions. They also double up against Adelaide and Richmond, which are potentially tricky matchups but far from daunting.
The first month sees them play St.Kilda, Adelaide, Essendon and GWS and provides an opportunity to fly out of the gates, despite them having three 6-day breaks in this period. One thing is for sure, it doesn’t look like the fixture can be held up as a reason for not succeeding in 2016.
Fixture rating – 7/10
Ken Hinkley was a revelation in 2014, with his side playing a bold attacking style of football that captured the imagination of the league and saw them come within a questionable free kick of a Grand Final berth. Despite injury issues last season, Hinkley must take some responsibility for not tweaking a game plan that was studied and countered by opponents.
In his first year he led this team to a stirring elimination final win against Collingwood at the MCG, and then their fantastic 2014. If he can turn around the Power fortunes this season, he will go a long wat to making 2015 the exception rather than the rule; much will depend on his ability to tinker with their game plan and find the right balance between height and run.
Coaching rating – 7/10
Dixon has the potential to be a game changer, but potential can be a dirty word. The midfield is in the age and experience bracket to invoke confidence and excitement among fans and the backline will look to prove that reputations count for naught when implementing a solid game plan.
Ah Chee, Sam Gray, Toumpas, Impey and Neade will all be relied on to develop and improve to provide the support to the bigger names and all have either the potential or 2015 form to do so. The list profile reflects the 9th ranked average age and 7th ranked average games played and just one player older than 29 so they seem primed for success. With a good injury run, Port could well match or even better their 2014 performance.
Predicted finish – 5thollie