Port Adelaide’s latest defensive recruit Sam Skinner will be attacking 2022 with “a point to prove”, according to line coach Chad Cornes.
The 24-year-old joined the club after a standout year in the SANFL with South Adelaide, playing both as a key forward and intercept defender.
Getting his second chance at life in the AFL after being delisted by Brisbane at the end of 2020, he’s taking the opportunity with two hands.
Cornes praised Skinner’s leadership capabilities when he initially signed, and has only seen them come to life across the pre-season.
“Sam Skinner’s come in and he’s shown some really impressive signs,” the backline coach said.
“Even a drill we did today, which required the defenders to be really vocal and instruct the guys in front of them… for a guy that’s in his second or third month, the leadership he shows on the track and how vocal and directive he is during drills has been really impressive.
“Not only that, but his intercept marking ability is very high. Port fans should be pretty excited about a guy like that coming in.
“He’s obviously got a point to prove. He’s really driven, he’s had some really unlucky incidents with injury… but we’re lucky to have him.”
Playing for the Panthers and helping them to finals last season, Skinner started his new venture predominantly as a forward.
He kicked 16 goals in 14 games before being shifted down to his more familiar defensive role, where he become one of the competition’s best all the way until South Adelaide’s preliminary final exit.
Skinner averaged 11 marks and 16 disposals in his time in defence, which Cornes assures he’ll be primarily focusing on with the Power.
“At this stage [he’ll be in the backline], who knows what’ll happen going forward,” the coach continued.
“All his training has been in the backline, and that’s where we’ll be using him going forward.”
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After initially returning to the club from GWS as a development coach, Cornes has made the shift to leading the defensive group in Port’s coaching reshuffle.
Jarrad Schofield’s departure saw Brett Montgomery take up the post with the midfielders, and Cornes take a step up to line coaching.
“It’s been great to be honest. When I moved back from GWS, it was the dream job, and one I wanted to aspire to,” Cornes said.
“I’m taking over a group that’s been really well coached, they’re an experienced group in themselves.”
It’s given Cornes an indication of who to watch in 2022, with names both young and old exciting on the training track.
“The one that I think a lot of our supporters are really excited about is, who just didn’t get a good run at it last year, is Lachie Jones,” he said.
“His whole pre-season so far, we know how powerful and explosive he is, he’s worked really hard on just honing up a few of his skills. The way he’s going, he’s putting himself right in line for a Round 1 position.
“Tom Clurey, he’s been really impressive, he’s had a really big point to prove for how things ended for him last year. There is some really nice competition within the backline group itself.”
Port fans feared the worst when an injury update on forwards Charlie Dixon and Orazio Fantasia came to light.
Dixon found himself in a moonboot after landing awkwardly during training and rupturing ligaments in his foot, leaving fans and coaches alike waiting nervously for his assessment.
But the hulking key forward looks to have avoided the worst, and will miss minimal time on the training track.
“The news is getting more and more positive, day in, day out,” Cornes said.
“Looks like surgery at this stage won’t be required. When he initially did it… it looked quite serious, he was in a lot of pain. The talk around it was that it would require surgery and could be up to three months.
“That was a little frightening to start with. It’s getting better and better every day. The swelling’s gone down and he’s walking around on it pretty much pain-free at the moment.
“If all that continues… he should be out on the training track around the four week mark.
“He’s a great on field leader and he inspires the boys, they rally around him. I was right around the contest when he went down, and he was in a lot of pain.
“For it to turn out the way it has, everyone did breathe a sigh of relief.”Embed from Getty Images
The news around Orazio Fantasia’s knee issues is also looking positive, despite similar concerns at training.
He underwent successful surgery on his left knee after it gave him continued trouble last season, but is now beginning to struggle with his right.
“His plan is to go for a light jog on Wednesday… which is a good sign,” Cornes said.
“He’s working really hard down in the gym right now, building the quad strength up. I had a chat to him this morning and he said it was feeling pretty good.
“If he gets through that little on field jog Wednesday, we’ll look to progress things from there.”
Per current fixturing, Port Adelaide will play a practice match against Fremantle before an AAMI Community Series Showdown with Adelaide on March 5.
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