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Tale of the tape for your AFL team in 2018: Port Adelaide

Port Adelaide players whoop it up after sealing victory against the Western Bulldogs in Ballarat in round 22 last season. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Tale of the tape for your AFL team in 2018: Port Adelaide

Rohan Connolly    

2017 record: 14 wins, 9 losses (7th)

Jack Watts (Melbourne), Tom Rockliff (Brisbane), Steven Motlop (Geelong), Trent McKenzie (Gold Coast), Jack Trengove (Melbourne), Sam Hayes (Eastern Ranges), Kane Farrell (Bendigo Pioneers), Jake Patmore (Claremont), Joel Garner (Eastern Ranges), Dom Barry (Glenelg), Lindsay Thomas (North Melbourne)

Jarman Impey (Hawthorn), Brendon Ah Chee (West Coast), Aaron Young (Gold Coast), Logan Austin (St Kilda), Matthew Lobbe (Carlton), Jackson Trengove (Western Bulldogs), Nathan Krakouer (retired), Angus Monfries (retired), Matt White (delisted), Jesse Palmer (delisted), Brett Eddy (delisted)

Balance. Best reflected in the fact Port Adelaide finished last season ranked both second for points scored AND fewest points conceded. Sydney, the only other team to better them defensively, ranked only fifth offensively, and Adelaide (first for points scored) were only fourth defensively. The Power also finished first on differentials by some margin for inside 50 entries, and were high enough for both contested ball and clearances. Flexibility is another big plus. Already with the likes of Robbie Gray and Chad Wingard able to excel either in attack or on the ball, Port can now count on Steven Motlop, Jack Watts and Tom Rockliff to deliver similar versatility. And there’s depth. That trio of imports, plus more senior experience via Trent McKenzie, Jack Trengove and Lindsay Thomas, gives coach Ken Hinkley a huge cast of senior-ready players to pick from each week. Plenty of cream in midfield, too. Add Rockliff and Motlop to a roll call already featuring Wines, Ebert, Boak, Wingard, Gray and Polec, and you have an on-ball mix right up there with the best in the competition.

Maturity. Certainly not in terms of age (Port will have the fifth-oldest list in 2018) or games played (second most-experienced), but in attitude. That was reflected in a sorry scoreline of 2-7 against fellow top eight teams last season, though five of those losses were by 17 points or less. But closing the deal was a repeated issue, obviously costliest in that post-siren defeat to West Coast in the elimination final. The Power tended to win big against the poorer teams, creeping dangerously close to that dreaded “flat track bully” tag. A bigger shot of resilience would go a long way next season. Conversion has been another issue, Port ranked just 12th for goals per inside 50 in 2017 despite that proliferation of forward 50 entries. And the influx of so many new players, whilst impressive on paper, suggests there’ll be some time taken for the new line-up up to gel, so don’t be overly surprised if Port starts slowly.

No, Dan Houston DOESN’T have a problem. In fact, this still-20-year-old has been a great addition to the Port blend. A very flexible defender capable of playing on talls or medium to small-sized forwards, Houston was initially drafted as a forward but was shifted to the backline where he made his round one debut and impressed all season in 17 games. A cool head and a lovely user of the football, like a few of Port’s younger brigade, he’s good enough not only to retain his spot in the line-up despite the influx of established senior talent, but become an even more important part of a defence which could still do with a touch more rebounding capacity.

It’s been a wretched couple of years for key defender Jack Hombsch after coming third in the club’s 2015 best and fairest count. Hamstring, quad and hip injuries cruelled the second half of his 2016, and last season it was a knee and another hip injury which ended up requiring surgery and cutting his year short. The injury had clearly taken a toll on Hombsch, unusually dropped late in the season before the docs drew a line through his name. Fingers will be crossed he can recapture his form of a couple of seasons ago, but in the meantime the likes of Tom Clurey, Tom Jonas and more recently Dougal Howard have filled the breach successfully. That means, initially at least, Hombsch might be behind that trio in terms of a spot in the best 22 and perhaps again have to fight a battle to establish himself which not all that long ago appeared to have been already won.

B: Darcy Byrne-Jones, Tom Clurey, Tom Jonas
HB: Hamish Hartlett, Dougal Howard, Dan Houston
C: Jared Polec, Ollie Wines, Steven Motlop
HF: Chad Wingard, Justin Westhoff, Travis Boak
F: Robbie Gray, Charlie Dixon, Sam Gray
Foll: Paddy Ryder, Brad Ebert, Tom Rockliff
Inter: Jack Watts, Sam Powell-Pepper, Matthew Broadbent, Jasper Pittard
Emerg: Karl Amon, Jack Hombsch, Trent McKenzie

Hot competition for a spot in this team, with (as discussed) Hombsch (for now) behind others for a spot as a key defender. Karl Amon is another decent player missing out initially, as are imports Trengove and Thomas. Expect Powell-Pepper to play bigger midfield roles and perhaps contribute more on the scoreboard up forward. This 22 also boasts a large group of players who can play either midfield or up forward with genuine impact. That’s more than handy.

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