19/05/2024

Port Adelaide is preparing for 2021. Photo: portadelaidefc.com.au

After a first minor premiership in 16 years, Port Adelaide is set to go again in season 2021 as its pursues its first flag since 2004.

Port Adelaide will have the six-point preliminary final loss to Richmond deep in its minds as it enters 2021 armed and ready to go.

Last year:

1st – 14 wins, 3 losses, 136.4%

Port Adelaide’s rise to the top of the AFL table was not predicted by many, as it finished in first at the end of round one and never looked back.

Port, in its 150th year, only lost three games in the home and away season and overcame Geelong in a hard-fought Qualifying Final at Adelaide Oval before falling to Richmond a fortnight later.

Charlie Dixon had his best season in Port colours while the club’s young talent – highlighted by Connor Rozee, Zak Butters and Xavier Duursma continued to shine.

Track watch:

We’ve seen the famous trio from the 2018 AFL Draft shining, but Port’s next crop, particularly Miles Bergman have been terrific.

Bergman is looking likely at a Round 1 spot in defence, while the highly touted Lachlan Jones has impressed in both pre-season clashes with crosstown rival Adelaide.

Rampaging midfielder Willem Drew looms likely to cause headaches at the selection table with an impressive pre-season after missing the entirety of 2020 through injury.

Among the older crew, Karl Amon may have found a new role more inside the middle, with the crafty left footer moving in from the wing.

Amon’s move has gifted a lifeline to Riley Bonner, whose inconsistencies in recent seasons have seen him in and out of the side.

His movement and kicking inside 50 throughout trial matches and the AAMI Community Series has Port buoyant about what he can do moving forward.

What to look forward to:

The forward line

Port’s forward line continues to be unpredictable. Charlie Dixon is the obvious target up forward, but trial matches have shown he’s not the only one.

The move for Orazio Fantasia looks exciting already, with the small forward kicking 3.3 in a half of footy against Adelaide at Noarlunga. His relentless attack on the ball and defensive pressure makes him a concern for most.

Robbie Gray looks likely to play mostly up forward, while Connor Rozee and Zak Butters have shown how dangerous they are around the goals.

In terms of fellow tall timber, Todd Marshall, Mitch Georgiades and Pete Ladhams will find themselves competing with each other for spots, which is what any good side wants – top talent fighting for top spots.

It’s a big year for:

He’s often been the decoy forward for Charlie Dixon, but it’s time for Todd Marshall to step up and take his game to a new level.

The skinny built key forward has a remarkable football brain and knows how to use it and kick goals, but he’s been on the cusp for a few years now.

With Ladhams and Georgiades breathing down his neck, not to mention recent draftee Ollie Lord, Marshall will need to kick a couple of bags to stake his claim on a permanent spot.

Biggest unanswered question:

Can they back it up?

After its sudden rise in 2013 and 2014, Port Adelaide fell back into mediocrity again and missed the finals after probably expecting it to happen.

The club wouldn’t win another final until 2020, but can it back it up again with so much expectation?

It’s a new dynamic from the 2014 team, it has more talent, it has more firepower and it has more flexibility, however, some stars are ageing.

Robbie Gray and Travis Boak are coming to the end, similarly Hamish Hartlett – it’s time for Port to strike.

Coach pressure index:

Low

Ken Hinkley signed a contract renewal in the off-season which divided the Port faithful, however, after a minor premiership-winning season, it’s hard to disagree with the decision.

Yet, the sceptics will want to see the 2020 performance backed up with a modified game. Quarters have returned to their full-time and new rules have been introduced.

Should Port miss the finals in 2021, watch out.

Ins:

Orazio Fantasia (Trade – Essendon), Aliir Aliir (Trade – Sydney Swans), Lachlan Jones (Draft – Woodville-West Torrens), Ollie Lord (Draft – Sandringham Dragons), Taj Schofield (Rookie Draft – Woodville-West Torrens), Tyson Goldsack (Rookie Draft – Port Adelaide).

Outs:

Justin Westhoff (Retired), Brad Ebert (Retired), Jack Watts (Retired), Joe Atley (Delisted), Wylie Buzza (Delisted), Tobin Cox (Delisted), Riley Grundy (Delisted), Jake Patmore (Delisted), Cam Sutcliffe (Delisted).

Predicted Round 1 Line-Up:

B – Ryan Burton – Tom Clurey – Aliir Aliir

HB – Dan Houston – Tom Jonas – Darcy Byrne-Jones

C – Xavier Duursma – Ollie Wines – Karl Amon

HF – Orazio Fantasia – Todd Marshall – Zak Butters

F – Peter Ladhams – Charlie Dixon – Robbie Gray

R – Scott Lycett – Willem Drew – Travis Boak

INT – Tom Rockliff – Riley Bonner – Steven Motlop – Miles Bergman

Ladder Range:

1-4

Another top four finish beckons for Port Adelaide. An added strength in defence with Aliir Aliir, class with Orazio Fantasia and another year into the youngsters.

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