If someone said at the start of the year Port Adelaide were all but set to feature in September action after Round 19, most people would’ve scoffed, but here they are.
The addition of Coach Ken Hinkley and the vast improvement of a number of young midfielders have seen Port prove to be a premiership contender for years to come.
Being out of the Victorian spotlight has allowed midfielders like Chad Wingard, Ollie Wines, Brad Ebert, Kane Cornes and first year Captain Travis Boak to fly under the radar, although their recent form suggests they should well be recognised as an almost-elite midfield.
Wingard’s 24 disposal and five-goal medal-winning performance in Sunday’s showdown has seen several people call for the youngster’s first All-Australian selection at just 19 years of age.
“He’s just played himself into the All-Australian team,” said Tim Watson after Wingard kicked truly to put the Power in front with just 30 seconds remaining.
Coach Ken Hinkley agrees with Watson, and believes he is a certainty to be selected in this year’s All-Australian side.
“He’s a special player, he’s had an incredible season and there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind if not before today he’s going to be in the All Australian side surely,” said Hinkley.
“He’s had an amazing year and today was the icing on the cake for him and his year bar none has been first class at this football club.”
A number of teammates were also quick to sing their praises of the young midfielder.
“You probably wouldn’t want anyone else in that situation that he was faced with; he’s just super cool under pressure,” Hamish Hartlett told reporters today.
“He has got every attribute that can turn him into a great player.
“He has got great skill, he’s incredibly quick along the ground and very agile, and surprisingly strong for how young and how small he looks physically.
“He is going to be a great player – obviously he’s making an impact already. There is no limit to how good he can be.”
But Wingard was not alone in Sunday’s comeback victory. Veteran Kane Cornes amassed 31 possessions, making it the sixth time this season he has managed over 30 possessions.
At 30 years of age, Cornes has shown no sign of slowing down and is yet to be held under 20 disposals for the entire season, missing only one game for the year due to suspension.
Travis Boak was another named in the best players, with the captain gathering 29 possessions, but more importantly, 19 contested possessions.
Since being given the role of captaincy and re-signing with Port, Boak has improved in all facets of his game and has been a perfect example for developing youngsters like Wingard and Wines, and will also be in contention for All-Australian honours.
First-year midfielder Ollie Wines, who was taken with Pick 7 in the 2012 national draft, has continued to impress since he was nominated for the Rising Star Award in Round 1.
Despite having a quiet game on Sunday, his work rate still shone through as he finished with seven tackles, a quality Port Adelaide fans have become accustomed to expect from Wines.
When the debate as to who has the best midfield in the competition arises next, it’s about time Port Adelaide joined the discussion.
Blake Gray is a second-year Bachelor of Journalism (sport) student.
You can follow him on Twitter: @blake_gray14