For the second successive year, Port Adelaide made a home preliminary final. It also lost it again.
The club’s talented youngsters fell to injury, as did a significant number of other players as it attempted to replicate its minor premiership winning season in 2020.
Despite the injury list, Port finished in the top two for the second time in as many years, but crashed hard.
Port Adelaide’s sensational work at the trade table continued to prove wonders.
Star defender Aliir Aliir instantly shot himself into the stratosphere with an All-Australian season, cleaning up Geelong in the Qualifying Final as a main highlight.
He also claimed the Showdown Medal for a stirring performance in the second Showdown of the year.
Former Essendon small forward Orazio Fantasia booted 28 goals in 15 games in his first season at Alberton in an impressing showing.
Miles Bergman fit into the Port line-up like a glove, after an initial slow start to his career.
Bergman was the sub on three occasions but became a regular utility towards the business end of the year, including a two-goal 20-disposal performance against Carlton.
Port’s midfield also showed substantial growth, with Willem Drew ranked second across the competition for tackles and fifth for tackles per game.
Ollie Wines took home Port Adelaide’s first Brownlow Medal, while Karl Amon was in the All-Australian squad of 40.
Port Adelaide did everything right against the lower ranking teams, but again struggled against the top sides.
Heavy losses to Brisbane and then to Geelong, Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs twice at home had Port clawing for the top four for majority of the season until results fell its way.
However, it was the 71-point “abomination” as it was put by football boss Chris Davies which is what Port’s season will be remembered by.
The loss, coupled in with the side’s horrific first quarters, was summed up as the Bulldogs piled on the goals and the Power never got a look in.
Injuries also obliterated the Power in 2021.
Robbie Gray, Orazio Fantasia, Steven Motlop, Xavier Duursma, Zak Butters, Kane Farrell and Connor Rozee all felt the injury curse this year.
They all, aside from Farrell, returned in time for the finals but were left underdone.
The Power also ranked 11th for clearances – the lowest placed side out of all the finalists.
Ollie Wines took home the Brownlow Medal as the competition’s best and fairest player on Sunday night, capping off a stellar season where he landed his first All Australian blazer.
The Port vice-captain averaged 32.4 disposals, 5.2 inside 50s and 4.4 tackles a game, winning a significant amount off his own boot.
Wines was second in total disposals, second in contested possessions, seventh in inside 50s and third for disposals per games.
Aliir Aliir was stellar across the campaign in his first season at Alberton after crossing from Sydney.
His intercept defending was a massive weapon for Port and it’d been something it lacked in defence with its lack of height.
When settled down back, Aliir was unstoppable, highlighted by his performance in the second Showdown of the season.
He took 11 marks and had 21 disposals in a match-winning game, including the final mark of the evening.
Karl Amon established himself as one of the elite wingmen in the competition, making the All-Australian 40 for the first time.
He recorded 566 touches, including a season-high 34 against St Kilda early in the campaign, while accumulating 10 tackles, also against the Saints, in their second meeting.
It completed a complete career turnaround, which almost saw him traded a few years’ back.
Willem Drew came back into the side after missing 2020 through injury and has secured his place as a regular.
Drew had 32 touches and a goal in the loss to the Brisbane Lions this season, and also recorded 164 tackles across the season.
He nailed 11 tackles in both Round 1 and the Qualifying Final win, and 10 tackles on three occasions.
Much like last season, Port’s main highlight came in the Qualifying Final win, and again against Geelong.
Port ripped its opponents apart across the game, led by recruits Orazio Fantasia and Aliir Aliir.
While Fantasia was subbed out after four goals, Aliir continued to control things in defence.
Tom Jonas and Trent McKenzie were handy sidekicks down back, while Riley Bonner and Ryan Burton were solid.
Ollie Wines was one of the best with 33 touches, while Travis Boak provided an attacking threat despite not kicking a major.
Two weeks’ later, filled with optimism, Port Adelaide was ripped to shreds by the rampaging Western Bulldogs.
Within 14 minutes, Port trailed by 31 points on its home deck and its dreams of avenging the 2020 Preliminary Final loss were crushed.
Despite a very minor pushback early in the third quarter, the Bulldogs controlled the game and booked a spot in the Grand Final.
Hamish Hartlett and Joel Garner have already been told they won’t be at Alberton next season.
Boyd Woodcock is another who struggled to break into the AFL line-up on a consistent basis, while Jarrod Lienert may want to explore his options elsewhere.
Port football boss Chris Davies also ruled out Tom Clurey departing this off-season.
Number one off-season priority
Port Adelaide is primed for a serious tilt at a premiership and with nearly all of the off-season recruits from 2017 gone, its war chest is well and truly alive.
Port has already put its hand up for Jordan Dawson from Sydney, but a big fish wouldn’t be unrealistic.
An inside midfielder to help the rampaging Ollie Wines and Willem Drew wouldn’t go too far astray.
It isn’t all doom and gloom for Port fans, despite the 12-goal loss in a home Preliminary Final.
There’s off-season changes afoot, with Jarrad Schofield departing as well as potentially Michael Voss.
2022 must be big for Port Adelaide.
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