21/04/2024

Erin Phillips leading her players onto the Adelaide Oval ahead of the first ever AFLW Showdown. (Image: PAFCW/Twitter; Design: Will Cuckson)

It was an admirable first season for Port Adelaide. Although it didn’t record many wins, the Alberton faithful saw Lauren Arnell’s group grow, showing promising signs for the future.

Finishing position: 17th (one win, one draw, eight losses)

What worked?

Going into season seven, Port Adelaide’s midfield was stacked with talent and experience and it certainly was the side’s most consistent area of the field for the season.

With experienced campaigners Erin Phillips, Jacqui Yorston, Kate Surman, Maria Moloney and young midfielders Abbey Dowrick and Hannah Ewings, Port Adelaide was able to consistently win the football in the middle.

At the end of season seven, Port Adelaide ranked equal ninth for clearances, averaging 22.9 per game. After losing the clearance count in their first five games, the Power finished the rest of the season winning the battle in their remaining five.

Another feature of this young Port Adelaide side was its want to pressure the opposition. Port finished the season fifth in tackles, averaging 66.2 per game.

Yorston, Moloney, and Dowrick led the way, often finding themselves the leading tackler in the Power’s matches, averaging eight, 6.9, and 6.1 tackles per game.

What didn’t?

Port Adelaide was in most of its games this season, however, like most young teams, often found itself going through patches throughout a game. The Power lost five of their 10 games by less than two goals and drew one.

Coming into the season, on paper Port’s forward line could potentially be a potent one with names such as captain Phillips and Gemma Houghton in the forward group.

However, due to several reasons, the Power finished as the fifth lowest scoring side, averaging 25.5 points per game. The girls from Alberton only kicked 35 goals (equal third lowest amount) for the season.

It didn’t help losing their spearhead Houghton in Round 2 against the Western Bulldogs, where the forward sustained an ankle injury that saw her miss the majority of the season. Luckily the 179cm forward was able to return and play in Rounds 8 and 9 before missing the club’s final match against Essendon.

Without Houghton, despite dominating stages throughout matches, Port Adelaide wasn’t able to capitalise and punish its opponents on the scoreboard.

Even though it would consistently get the ball inside forward 50, it didn’t have an experienced tall forward to bring the ball to the ground for the side’s smalls to go to work.

Breakout stars:

Although the senior players at Port Adelaide had good seasons, it was the work of the young up and comers that shone through and took supporters’ breath away.

Defenders Alex Ballard and Amelie Borg had strong seasons in defence despite being under pressure playing against opposing forwards.

Ballard played great as an intercepting defender, averaging 11.8 disposals, 3.2 rebound 50s, and 5.8 intercept possessions per game. While Borg’s numbers don’t jump off the page, averaging 6.1 disposals per game, Port’s sixth selection’s impact went beyond numbers, playing as a lockdown defender on the opposition’s number one key forward.

Port Adelaide had three Rising Star nominees, with Abbey Dowrick, Hannah Ewings, and Indy Tahau earning nominations during the season.

Ewings was Port Adelaide’s first pick in the draft and illustrated straight away she can play at the level. In 10 games, the 18-year-old averaged 13.9 disposals, 3.9 clearances, 8.3 contested possessions, and 4.9 tackles per game. She also kicked four goals, when resting up forward.

Dowrick earned her Rising Star nomination on her debut in Round 1 against the West Coast Eagles. On the day she recorded 21 disposals, seven marks, six clearances, and four tackles.

After her debut performance, the 20-year-old built into the season strongly and finished her first campaign averaging 14.4 disposals, 6.1 tackles, and 2.9 clearances per game.

Tahau’s return home for more opportunities at AFLW level worked wonders for the defender, as she played in all 10 games in season seven, while also producing a career year.

The 20-year-old averaged 10 disposals, 2.7 marks, 6.8 intercept possessions, and 2.8 rebound 50s per game. She also has shown on-field leadership throughout the season among Port’s young defence.

After switching codes from basketball to Aussie rules, Oliva Levicki also showed promise after joining Port Adelaide as a rookie.

Although her ruck craft was raw at the start, as the season went on you could see it develop and continue to get better, especially with Liz McGrath playing just three games due to injury. The 29-year-old finished season seven averaging eight disposals, 17.6 hit outs, and just under two clearances per game

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Highest point:

The highest point of the Power’s season had to be the club recording their first-ever win in the AFLW competition.

Port dominated its younger opponent and fellow expansion team Sydney from start to finish in Round 4 as it won the clash by 66 points.

The Power were well led by captain Erin Phillips (16 disposals), Ewings (19 disposals, 13 contested, eight tackles, nine clearances, and three goals), Dowrick (24 disposals and 14 tackles), and Yorston (15 disposals and 13 tackles).

Although Port Adelaide didn’t register another win for the season, fans will never forget the day of the club’s first win.

Lowest point:

Fans came into the clash between South Australian rivals the Adelaide Crows with a sense of excitement, as the game was the first ever AFLW Showdown.

But the night ended disappointingly as the Power were on the wrong end of a thumping, losing by 10 goals.

The Crows were too strong in the contest, with Anne Hatchard and Ebony Marinoff bullying the Power’s midfielders. Adelaide also restricted Port’s ball movement, while putting its young defence under pressure which allowed Chelsea Randall to kick three goals.

Port Adelaide players look disappointed post-Showdown loss. (Photo: AFL)

Where to next?

Port Adelaide definitely showed signs of growth and improvement in its first season in the AFLW competition. The club’s younger players got a big year of development, which should prove valuable in coming seasons as they look to build upon the foundation created by coach Lauren Arnell.

The way Port recruited for its first season put itself in a great period of sustained success, with so many youngsters from the draft but also signing experienced mature talent.

Another pre-season for the likes of Hannah Ewings, Abbey Dowrick, Alex Ballard, Indy Tahau, and Amelie Borg will only help the Power even more next year.

Port Adelaide has already stated it would like to target another forward to add some more genuine firepower alongside Houghton and Phillips to help its inefficiency inside forward 50, as well as another tall defender.

Liz McGrath won’t be returning to Port Adelaide next season after the club delisted the 24-year-old ruck.

Nonetheless, although the win column only read one win, Port Adelaide illustrated to the competition that it was competitive and was unlucky not to win a couple more.

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