20/05/2024

With a nice blend of youth and experience Port Adelaide is primed to make an impact in its inaugural season. (Photo: PAFC Women's/Twitter)

Among the new expansion teams to join the AFLW competition in season seven, Port Adelaide will be keen to make a mark in its inaugural season.

Snapshot:

Port Adelaide has built one of the most competitive and even lists of the expansion teams, mixing in a nice blend of experience for the now and talented youth for the future.

Under head coach Lauren Arnell, anything is possible, but it is to be expected that the newly constructed team will take time to gel and build chemistry.

The Power’s midfield is stacked and full of experience led by former Gold Coast Suns captain Hannah Dunn, Adelaide Crows’ three-time premiership player Justine Mules, and captain Erin Phillips, who may spend some time in the middle when not up forward.

Port will also have plenty of young players to roll through the middle including draftees Hannah Ewings, Sachi Syme, and Yasmin Duursma.

With star players such as Phillips and Gemma Houghton in the forward line as marking targets, Port Adelaide will have a lot of power fire and will keep opposing defences on their toes.

What to look forward to:

Port Adelaide should have no problem scoring this season, with the likes of the captain Phillips and Houghton in its forward line.

Phillips and Houghton finished in the top 20 goal kickers last season, kicking eight and nine goals respectively. Don’t let last year’s numbers fool you: Phillips and Houghton have kicked the second and seventh most goals in AFLW history, kicking 50 and 40 goals respectively.

Another thing for Port Adelaide supporters to look forward to is the talented youth the club has drafted. First pick Hannah Ewings was considered one of the most complete players in the draft.

In 13 games for North Adelaide, the 18-year-old averaged 20.6 disposals, 4.4 clearances, and five inside 50s per game. Ewings’ stellar season saw her finish fourth in the SANFLW’s best and fairest.

Ewings is not only capable of playing as an inside midfielder, but can also go forward and make an impact which she illustrated at SANFLW level, averaging 1.3 goals per game with 16 for the season.

Biggest unanswered question:

The Power have experience evenly spread in all parts of the ground, but an area they’re particularly vulnerable in is their defence.

Most of Port Adelaide’s defensive group is young in both age and AFLW experience, the outlier being vice-captain Ange Foley, who is coming off an ACL injury that kept her out all last season.

Indy Tahau and Cheyenne Hammond have had AFLW experience, coming over from the Lions and Suns, but are still relatively young in terms of games played, having played 19 and 22 games respectively.

Foley’s leadership will be invaluable to the Power’s defensive group, especially with the likes of Alex Ballard and draftee Amelie Borg to play throughout the year.

You know Port Adelaide’s forward line can score, but can their defensive group hold teams at bay?

It’s a big year for…

After being overlooked in the 2017 AFLW Draft, Jade De Melo was picked up by Fremantle in the rookie draft. The then 25-year-old didn’t get much of an opportunity at the Dockers, playing only two games before being delisted at the end of the 2018 season.

Since her delisting, the medium forward has played for the NT Thunder in the VFLW in 2019, before more recently playing for North Adelaide in the SANFLW. The now 29-year-old was one of the most dangerous forwards in the competition this season.

In 13 games, De Melo kicked 16 goals, while averaging 12.8 disposals and 3.6 marks. Expect the 168cm forward to start in Port Adelaide’s forward line next to Houghton and Phillips and form a potent forward group with the star duo.

De Melo will play a versatile role up forward, and potentially play the high half-forward position. She will be a player that Port Adelaide can kick down the line to with her ability to take pack marks, while also being crafty around goal.

After kicking three goals in the SANFLW Grand Final, Port Adelaide gave De Melo another shot at the top level, and expect her to take it with both hands.

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Fixture highlights:

It’s hard to look past Port Adelaide’s opening game against the West Coast Eagles. Although Port will be travelling to Western Australia, it will be a moment fans remember forever as the club opens its account for the first ever time in the competition.

Round 5 will see Kate Surman, Jacqui Yortson, Britt Perry and Cheyenne Hammond, and Hannah Dunn return to Queensland to face their former side, the Gold Coast Suns.

Port Adelaide supporters will have September 30 circled in their calendars with the first ever AFLW Showdown fixtured in Round 6, under the Friday night lights of Adelaide Oval.

The clash will draw plenty of interest given how fierce the rivalry is in the men’s competition, but it will also be the first time Erin Phillips, Justine Mules, and Ange Foley will be going up against their old team.

The Power has drawn a relatively easy-looking fixture, only having to play two of last year’s finalists (the Crows and Kangaroos) both at home at Adelaide Oval and Alberton respectively.

Full Fixture:

R1: vs West Coast, August 27 (Mineral Resources Park)

R2: vs Western Bulldogs, TBC (Alberton Oval)

R3: vs Carlton, September 11 (Ikon Park)

R4: vs Sydney, TBC (Alberton Oval)

R5: vs Gold Coast, September 25 (Kombumerri Park)

R6: vs Adelaide, September 30 (Adelaide Oval)

R7: vs Hawthorn, October 8 (Skybus Stadium)

R8: vs Kangaroos, October 15 (Alberton Oval)

R9: vs St Kilda, October 23 (RSEA Park)

R10: vs Essendon, TBC (Alberton Oval)

Inaugural squad:

In: Abbey Dowrick (Subiaco), Alex Ballard (Sturt), Amelie Borg (North Adelaide), Angela Foley (Adelaide), Brittany Perry (Gold Coast), Cheyenne Hammond (Gold Coast), Ebony O’Dea (Collingwood), Ella Boag (Glenelg), Erin Phillips (Adelaide), Gemma Houghton (Fremantle), Hannah Dunn (Gold Coast), Hannah Ewings (North Adelaide), Indy Tahau (Brisbane), Jacqueline Yorston (Gold Coast), Jade De Melo (North Adelaide), Jade Halfpenny (Norwood), Julia Teakle (East Fremantle), Justine Mules (Adelaide), Kate Surman (Gold Coast), Laquoiya Cockatoo-Motlap (Suns Academy), Lily Johnson (West Adelaide), Litonya Cockatoo-Motlap (Suns Academy), Liz McGrath (North Melbourne VFLW), Maggie MacLachlan (Fremantle), Maria Moloney (Brisbane), Olivia Levicki (rookie), Sachi Syme (Norwood), Sarah Goodwin (Glenelg), Tessa Doumanis (Claremont), Yasmin Duursma (Gippsland Power)

Predicted Round 1 line-up:

(Headshots: Port Adelaide website; Design: Will Cuckson)

Ladder range:

Ninth-14th

Given this Port Adelaide team is yet to play a game, it’s hard to gauge what to expect from them so early.

Although as a newly constructed team, it will take time for the side to build chemistry and gel together. With the list filled with plenty of experience and young talent, Port will heavily rely on its senior players to lead the way if it wants to make the finals, but it could also experience an up and down year as the youngsters continue to develop.

Only two sides have qualified for finals in their first season in the competition and that was Geelong in 2019 and Gold Coast in 2020. Could Port Adelaide join the list? Only time will tell.

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