AFL: Light at the End of the Tunnel; Port Adelaide: A Season in Review

Port Adelaide had another horror season in 2012, but as Robert Bremner finds out, there is plenty of light at the end of the tunnel

As was in 2011, This was a familiar sight for Port fans this season (Slattery Images)

Port: 14th. 5 wins, 16 losses and a draw.

Simply by looking at the ladder you would say that Port Adelaide’s season has been a very disappointing one. However if you look a little closer you will see that 2012 has been a large step in the right direction. As bad as the Power have been this season, they have come leaps and bounds on where they were in 2011 and have shown enough to suggest that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

What went right:

Port Adelaide won two games (as well as having a draw) more than last year and jumped above the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne on the ladder. A gritty first round win over the more highly fancied Saints in round one got them off to a good start.  A number of honourable losses against Collingwood, Sydney and Essendon followed showing that the power were able to match intensity with the top 8 sides for sections of matches. The miraculous comeback against North Melbourne in Round 8 is not only a highlight but also one of the clubs greatest comebacks in their short history. Port Adelaide also managed to avenge their embarrassing loss to the Gold Coast last season with an impressive 48 point win. They showed off their rock solid defence in a stingy 28 point drubbing of Melbourne. However the highlight of the season without question is Port Adelaide’s 54 point demolition of Carlton. Not only was it their first top 8 scalp in a few years but it was a ferocious four quarter performance and an example of what Port Adelaide are capable of when at their best.  The power also managed to be much more competitive this season with their 72 point loss to Hawthorn their biggest of the season.

What went wrong:

A lot of things. The biggest issue this season was once again the inconsistency. Their ability to play like a top 8 side one week and then turning up lifeless and disinterested the next was disheartening for supporters, and sadly there were too many examples of the latter. For 5 quarters this season Port Adelaide were held goalless. Twice this occurred in the last quarter when the game was up for grabs.

There were also too many slow starts in games such as the ones against West Coast, Fremantle and Richmond. Port Adelaide’s inability to play four quarters saw them overrun a number of times in very winnable games. The biggest disappointment was once again losing to the new expansion team, this time Greater Western Sydney. The Alberton boys produced an embarrassing display that saw them go down by 34 points and including a defeatist last quarter. This game ultimately proved the end for Coach Matthew Primus who left the Power with few highlights in his short coaching career. There is also the continuous issue of low attendance. Port Adelaide achieved their lowest home crowd in history this year with a mere 13,683 turning up to see them take on the Eagles.

The players:

Once again it seems the club needs to take a long hard look at itself in the offseason and find out who is not pulling their weight. In a disappointing season, there were a few shinning lights that will help lead the power in the future:

Brad Ebert– With 17 goals and an average of 23 possessions per game he provided an X factor in a sometimes lifeless team. His courage when going for the ball and great marks will certainly help drive Power fans through the gates. Ebert is my tip to take out the clubs best and fairest after a fantastic year.

Jay Schulz: Provided a strong presence up forward all year. Was the clubs leading scorer with 42 goals and was able to provide a strong headache to opposition coaches.

Kane Cornes: Was again Port Adelaide’s leading possession winner and also the tagger on a number of occasions. The driving force in a lot of the Power’s forward attacks. It’s a shame he is in the twilight of his career.

Travis Boak: Although hampered by injury still was one of the clubs most prolific ball winners and also had the ability to kick goals. Has signed a contract with the Power for the next two years which is great news for fans.

What they need:

The clubs needs to take a detailed look at the players. Who has potential and who should be traded. Justin Westhoff springs to mind; he has so much potential and yet has produced so little. The club also needs to improve its midfield. Other than Boak, Ebert and Cassisi there is no class or well known names that can match the likes of a Hawthorn, Richmond and Carlton midfield. They also need another consistent forward. Schulz played the lone hand up there with minimal help from Stewart and Westhoff. Lastly the ruck stocks at Port Adelaide are looking bare. Lobbe and Renouf are hardly considered top ruckman and have struggled against dominate ruckman such as Dean Cox. Put simply the Power need more talent, young up and coming players that take the game on, are exciting and will bring supporters through the gates to watch them.

2013 and beyond:

Simply, Port Adelaide needs to become consistent. Beat teams that they should as well claim a couple of upsets. The players themselves need to improve their skills as they frequently turned the ball over this season. They also need to reduce the distance between their best and worst because at the moment it is much too great.

They must also find an experienced coach. Primus was way too inexperienced to deal with the struggling club. They need a coach who has done it all before, for instance Brett Ratten. For 2013 to be a success the Power must climb up the ladder and while it is unlikely that they will play finals next year they shouldn’t be too far out of the 8.

Success may still be many years away but the fans need to remain loyal and also patient. Remember since 2000 Port Adelaide have won 3 minor premierships, played in two grand finals and won a premiership. That is a lot more than a lot of other clubs have achieved in that space of time.

Prediction: 12th with 9 wins. Expect a few more wins at home next season against the lower clubs but still not enough to make the finals.

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