The Way-Too-Early 2013 Preview: Port Adelaide

PORT ADELAIDE

Port Adelaide has never been the same since their evisceration at the hands of Geelong in the 2007 Grand Final. They plunged to 13th place on the ladder the following season, despite having most of the same players that guided them to the Grand Final the year before. In 2009 they climbed back up to tenth, and stayed in that spot again in 2010. By this stage however, they were hovering, not climbing. The core of the team that had guided them to that grand final appearance was beginning to fall apart. Warren Tredrea and Brendon Lade had retired. Steven Salopek’s career halted as injuries took their toll. Peter Burgoyne joined Tredrea and Lade, and Shaun Burgoyne requested to leave. The team was headed in the wrong direction.

Finishing Positions
2008 13th
2009 10th
2010 10th
2011 16th
2012 14th

 

2012 was the fifth season in a row where the Power had failed to make the finals. Remarkably, the list still featured eleven players who were in the twenty-two against Geelong in 2007.

Port Adelaide 2007 Grand Final Side

B

Pettigrew Thurstans Surjan
HB Cassisi Chaplin

P. Burgoyne

C

Salopek K. Cornes Rodan
HF Motlop Tredrea

Pearce

F

Lade J Westhoff Ebert
Foll Brogan C Cornes

S Burgoyne

Bench

Boak Symes

Logan

Wakelin

Italics = No longer on list in 2012

Why did they fall so hard?

Conspiracy Theory

Port Adelaide were clearly devastated by the result in 2007. The next season came about and they lost their opening four outings. Confidence was shattered and belief was at all-time lows. Psychologists were called in, but to no avail. Nothing could overcome the all-encompassing devastation that took place on the 29th of September, 2007.

So they called in these guys.

MiB_pose

And they gathered everyone around.

Despondent Port Players

Locked them all together in a room, and…….

Look right here, thank you.
Look right here, thank you.

The problem is the memory eraser worked a little too well. The players forgot all about 2007. They also forgot how to play football. The recruiters forgot what they were looking for. Even sponsors forgot why they were sponsoring them. They forgot about Men in Black II though, which is a bonus.

Too far-fetched?

2012 Key Statistics

Port Adelaide 2012 Offensive
Average per Game Competition Rank
Disposals 340 17th
Contested Possessions 135.7 15th
Clearances 37.8 10th
Inside 50s 45.9 15th
Marks Inside 50 9 16th
Hitouts 35.2 15th
Goals 11 14th

 

Port Adelaide 2012 Defensive
Average per Game Competition Rank
Points Against 97.45 14th
Inside 50s Conceded 53.2 13th
Marks Inside 50 Conceded 12.8 tied 14th
Tackles 59.5 13th

 

Port Adelaide 2012 Offensive/Defensive Differentials
Total Competition Rank
Inside 50s Opponent Differential                       (Total Inside 50s minus Total Inside 50s conceded) -160 14th
Marks Inside 50 Opponent Differential (Total Marks Inside 50 minus Total Marks Inside 50 conceded) -84 15th

 

What are they great at?

Nothing.

What are they good at?

Good isn’t the right word, after all, they’re still below the competition average, but considering their struggles everywhere else, Port Adelaide’s 10th placed clearance ranking doesn’t look too bad.

What do they need to improve?

Everywhere.

What are they bad at?

Several areas, such as:

Getting their hands on the footy.

Port Adelaide really struggled to win and keep possession in 2012. In fact only the Demons touched it less. It starts in the ruck, where Port Adelaide were 15th for hit outs, making the 10th placed clearance rating even more “impressive”. They struggled winning the contested ball, and when they didn’t have it they didn’t apply enough pressure to get it back, finishing 13th for tackles and allowing the opposition to go forward with ease. When they did have it, they didn’t hold onto it for very long, and didn’t send it forward often either, ranking 15th for forward 50 entries.

Port Adelaide could only average nine marks inside 50 per game, a figure probably made lower because of Jay Schultz’s seven games absence, but still disappointing given Schultz’s presence. Schultz averaged 3.5 marks inside 50 a game in 2012, good for the fourth best rate in the league. John Butcher’s struggles really show here, as the young key forward could only average one mark inside 50 every two games, when in his four games in 2011 he averaged 2.75 a game.

No really, why did they fall so hard?

A team tumbling down the ladder can be the result of numerous things. Injuries can take their toll and lead to poor seasons. Key players can depart and others fail to fill the void left behind. Sometimes it’s just a case of being up for a prolonged amount of time. Gravity in effect. The draft and salary cap are designed to raise those at the bottom and bring down those at the top.

A team staying at the foot of the ladder is usually the result of two things. Poor recruiting and player development.

In 2004 Port Adelaide captured their first AFL premiership. This success was born out of astute use of their entry conditions back in 1996 and some of their draft day selections. Through their un-contracted player selections they acquired Brownlow Medallist Gavin Wanganeen and Matthew Primus. Their zone selection entitlements saw them list the likes of Peter Burgoyne, Stuart Dew, Josh Francou, Warren Tredrea, Michael Wilson and Brendon Lade. Their drafting between the 1996 and 2000 period was very up and down, with the majority of their selections either star players or never wearing the jumper. Some of those players included Chad Cornes, Nick Stevens, Josh Carr, Shaun Burgoyne, Kane Cornes and Domenic Cassisi.

They had spent four years occupying top four spots during this period of success, and as a result they were deprived of high draft selections during that time.

Win Now, Worry Later

2001 National Draft
Pick Name Games for Port Still on List?
15 Barry Brooks 0 N
62 Damon White 55 N

 

Having finished in the top four but gone down in straight sets, Port Adelaide were in “win now” mode during the 2001 off-season, and their trading reflected this. Port sent picks 31 and 47 to Essendon for Damien Hardwick, a good bit of business as Hardwick would be a consistent member of the twenty-two throughout the glory years.

 

2002 National Draft
Pick Name Games for Port Still on List?
6 Steven Salopek 121 N
16 Stephen Gilham 1 N
42 Brett Ebert 166 Y
57 Wade Champion 0 N

 

Port Adelaide finished the 2002 regular season on top of the ladder, but found themselves with pick six thanks to St Kilda. Port Adelaide had selected Barry Brooks, a ruck/forward, with pick 15 the year before. The Saints were obviously enamoured with Brooks and sent the Power picks 6 and 31 for the giant. Brooks played 10 games and averaged 4.3 disposals throughout his career.

Their “win now” mindset was again on show when they sent pick 13 and the newly acquired pick 31 to North Melbourne for Byron Pickett. Pickett would go on to win the Norm Smith Medal in the 2004 Grand Final. Salopek was a key player for many years before injuries all but ruined his career, while Ebert remains at Port today. All in all the 2002 off-season was good for the club.

 

2003 National Draft
Pick Name Games for Port Still on List?
15 Troy Chaplin  140  N
30 Brad Symes  20  N
34 Luke Peel  0  N
39 Robert Forster-Knight 0  N
46 Michael Pettigrew  103  N

 

The club finished top again in 2003, three games clear of next best Collingwood. But yet again they failed to even make the Grand Final, and were instead crushed by the Pies in their Prelim.

The returns from the 2003 draft started out looking pretty good, but ultimately ended up more disappointing because of it.  Chaplin was a major component of the side for many years until his departure this past off-season, but his career at Alberton will be remembered more for what could’ve been than what it actually was. At one stage Chaplin and 2005 draftee Alipate Carlisle formed what was considered the best young key position defender duo in the entire competition. They seemed to immediately stagnate, and slowly got worse until Chaplin left for Richmond.

 

2004 National Draft
Pick Name Games for Port Still on List?
11 Adam Thomson  32 N
19 Ryan Willits  3  N
34 James Ezard  4  N
35 Fabian Deluca  11  N
51 Ben Eckerman  4  N

 

Port finally broke through in 2004, making the Grand Final for the first time and denying Brisbane a four-peat with relative ease.

Fresh off winning their inaugural flag, Port were riding high. They were however about to feel the effects of prolonged success. Their trade week actions over the past few years had paid off, but their low draft selections and trading of picks for mature players were going to have repercussions in the future. In 2004 Port found themselves with an extra first round selection due to the departure of Josh Carr to Fremantle, which, if used wisely, could’ve kick started the replenishment of the side. Instead they whiffed badly, and the draft was essentially a write-off.

 

2005 National Draft
Pick Name Games for Port Still on List?
30 Nick Lower  20  N
44 Alipate Carlisle  111  Y
58 Hugh Minson  0  N
70 Jonathan Giles  0  N

 

The Power only just scrapped into the finals after their premiership season. With much of their premiership side still in tact, they made the justifiable decision to trade several of their draft selections for players who could immediately contribute. Port sent pick 14 to the Hawks for Nathan Lonie, and picks 28 and 46 to the Kangaroos for Daniel Motlop. Both players would play roles in their 2007 season, but long term these moves didn’t pay off.

 

2006 National Draft
Pick Name Games for Port Still on List?
5 Travis Boak  108 Y
23 Paul Stewart  65  Y
39 Nathan Krakouer  33  N
55 Robbie Gray  70  Y
71 Justin Westhoff  111  Y
83 Ryan Williams  2  N
86 David Rodan  111  N

 

Port plummeted further in 2006, finishing 12th. Turnover from the 2004 flag winning side continued, and Warren Tredrea began to decline as a result of injuries.

There was reason for promise though. Several key members of that side remained, Shaun Burgoyne was one of the competition’s best, and young Danyle Pearce had won the Rising Star award.

2006 was a good year draft wise though, at least relative to the others. Boak is arguably Port Adelaide’s best player today, and Robbie Gray has had batches of very impressive play interrupted by reoccurring injury. Rodan found new footballing life at Port Adelaide and was a steal at pick 86. Justin Westhoff has had about nine great games in his career, and they were all against Adelaide.

 

2007 National Draft
Pick Name Games for Port Still on List?
16 Matthew Lobbe  22  Y
28 Marlon Motlop  5  N
33 Matthew Westhoff  6  N
49 Mitchell Farmer  31  N

 

2007 was an odd year in the league. Geelong established a sizeable lead on everyone else and were clearly in a class of their own. At the time Geelong still had a reputation for not getting it done when it mattered, but in hindsight the rest of the sides were merely fighting for the right to lose to them on Grand Final day. Oh boy did they lose.

Draft day wasn’t much better. Lobbe is a developing ruckman who is yet to set the world alight, but not many young rucks do. The rest of the selections though were misses, and prompted Port Adelaide to review their “only draft people with a first name starting with M” policy after only one year.

 

2008 National Draft
Pick Name Games for Port Still on List?
4 Hamish Hartlett  46  Y
22 Jackson Trengove  61  Y
38 Matthew Broadbent  55  Y
42 Mitchell Banner  19  N
54 Jarrad Redden  9  Y
66 Glen Dawson  0  N
78 Jason Davenport  28  N

 

The downward spiral was in full swing now. The players who had featured in the 2004 flag and carried the side to the 2007 Grand Final appearance were not getting any younger, and were increasingly being afflicted with injury or general decline. Tredrea was now half the player he was during the early to mid 2000s. While he was still contributing 30 odd goals a season, in his prime he was good for anywhere between 60 and 85. His athleticism had dropped severely, and this reduced the impact he could have on field. When you factor in the general pallor 119 had cast over the club, you could see the 2007 season was perhaps going to be remembered as a false dawn.

Draft day wasn’t too bad though, and 2008 has the makings of an even better draft class than 2006. Hartlett has his reoccurring injury concerns, but he rivals Boak in terms of quality. Trengove had a poor 2012, alarmingly showing some of the traits that plagued Chaplin and Carlisle, whose careers stagnated after similarly impressive starts. Prior to 2012 though, Trengove was nothing short of a young star, sharing the Best and Fairest with Boak in 2011. There can be no real complaints about their first three selections, and considering that after the first three rounds you really are taking flyers on potential (players whose scouting reports include terms like “only started playing three weeks ago”, “runs really fast, only started playing two weeks ago” and “Irish”), Port Adelaide did well in 2008.

 

2009 National Draft
Pick Name Games for Port Still on List?
8 John Butcher  12 Y
9 Andrew Moore  24  Y
16 Jasper Pittard  14  Y
82 Daniel Stewart (PR)  35  Y

 

Port Adelaide had three first round selections in 2009 thanks to the Shaun Burgoyne departure, and while it is still early days, the early return has been disappointing. Butcher burst onto the scene for Port over the last month of 2011, but had a disappointing  2012. Andrew Moore is sold as a versatile midfielder and forward. He averaged 14.1 disposals and kicked 3 goals in 2013. This was his best season to date…

Pittard is another half-back flanker, a position 87% of Port’s list occupies. Getting his debut in 2011, Pittard showed some impressive signs, racking up 27 disposals in only his third outing. However injury has plagued him since, and he managed only one appearance in 2012.

The good news is Port Adelaide had some success during trade week, taking Jay Schulz off Richmond’s hands for Mitchell Farmer and pick 71. Schulz has more than repaid his price tag, and is one of the better forwards in the entire competition.

 

2010 National Draft
Pick Name Games for Port Still on List?
16 Ben Jacobs  26 N
35 Ben Newton  0 Y
36 Aaron Young  12  Y
62 Cameron O’Shea  22  Y
68 Cameron Hitchcock (PR)  15  Y
83 Danny Meyer (PR)  0  N

 

2010 showcased another disappointing performance on draft day. Their first round selection, Jacobs, has already departed for North Melbourne, and the other guys still around have the distinct smell of “we are only going to be around until someone better comes along”. Not much to see here.

 

2011 National Draft
Pick Name
6 Chad Wingard
45 Brendan Ah Chee
51 Nathan Blee

 

2012 National Draft
Pick Name
7 Oliver Wines
29 Tom Clurey
30 Mason Shaw
85 Tom Jonas (PR)

 

It’s too early to cast judgement on the past two years, but what we’ve seen so far is cause for excitement if you’re a member of the Port Adelaide faithful. Wingard and Wines are cornerstones to build around, and alongside Boak and Hartlett will form the core of the midfield over the coming years.

By and large though Port’s draft selections have been very poor over the past ten years. Many made no, or only a handful of appearances, while many more played several games more than they would’ve at most other clubs thanks to the dearth of talent around. Port seemed to avoid impact players. On the whole there are very few genuine key position players, or midfielders with defined strengths. “Versatility” is the trait they appeared to covet most, and unless you’re Adam Goodes, “versatility” often means “not particularly great in any one position”. They also selected a lot of thinly framed outside players, and most of them didn’t possess particularly good disposal skills. It’s like a textbook on what not to do on draft day.

Points of Interest in 2013

John Butcher

Somewhat surprisingly Port Adelaide had five players kick twenty or more goals in 2012. Schulz led the line with an impressive 42 goals in 15 outings, and would’ve been a fringe Coleman contender had he not missed seven games. Westhoff was next with 28, Brett Ebert had 23, Broadbent had 21 and Paul Stewart had 20.

The returns from Broadbent and Stewart are promising, but players like Westhoff and Ebert are treading water at this stage in their careers, and it’s unlikely they will be around for Port’s next top four push. They need someone to step in and be a genuine tall partner for Schulz with an eye on taking the number one mantle later down the road.

Butcher has clearly been earmarked for that role. Whether he can get his body right and fill that role will be one of the more important aspects for the club both in 2013 and long term.

Hamish Hartlett

Hartlett is probably the best ball user in the Port Adelaide side, but so far his career has been defined by two things, playing on the half-back line, and hamstring injuries.

The acquisition of Lewis Stevenson and return of Pittard means Hartlett is free to assume a role in the middle and on the wing. Already one of their best players, the club will be hoping Hartlett can elevate his game and become the star player they have been longing for.

2013 OUTLOOK

Port are often lumped in with both the Demons and the Bulldogs at the moment. The three of them finished bunched together last season and were a clear notch below the Lions, Tigers, Bombers, Blues and Saints tier that also finished outside the eight. In the immediate term I think the Power are probably a slight notch above those two. They have more seasoned bodies than the Dees, and the Bulldog’s absolute rejection of anything resembling a key forward means they’ll struggle to score despite a relatively impressive midfield.

Looking bigger picture I’d say the Demons probably have slightly more pieces in place moving forward, and the Doggies and Port are about the same. If I had to bet on which one was closer to a flag at this moment, I’d say the Demons. All three have very good building blocks in the middle, but in Clark and Hogan Melbourne have by far the best forward stocks.

Port Adelaide aren’t going to make the finals in 2013. They will almost certainly finish in that 5 to 8 win tier once again. New coach Ken Hinkley will be looking for improvement in the defensive side of the game, and with Oliver Wines should build on their 10th placed finish in clearances. They need to just continue adding talent to the list, and avoid the problem of young players stagnating after their first couple of years at this level, which has afflicted them a great deal of late. If they do this, then they’ll climb out of this stupor sooner rather than later.

About Adam Ritchie

My name is Adam. I started watching football with two fellow parapsychologists in an abandoned firehouse. When we’re not watching footy, we’re running our own pest control business. What do you mean I stole that from Ghostbusters?

Comments

  1. PeterSchumacher says:

    I have to say that I look forward to your contributions, this is another really good analysis.

  2. Adam Ritchie says:

    Cheers Peter, always nice to know people are enjoying it.

  3. Adam, I’ve heard of recruiting busts before, Melbourne is often raised, but the evidence you show from Port is jaw-dropping. No wonder their playing stocks are thin. Looks like Hinkley has his work cut out for him.

  4. Skip of Skipton says:

    Chad Wingard and Aaron Young look handy from the recent drafts.
    Port played pretty well at times last year, they were very competitive early in the season, better than anything offered by Melbourne or the Dogs.

    There has been some confidence/motivation issues and malaise there. Expect Kenny from Camperdown to sort that out promptly.

  5. Kerry Smith says:

    Hi Skip from Skipton
    You are absolutely spot on. Kenny from Camperdown, along with Alan from Allover, have already made a big difference to playing style and confidence at the Power. There are several very good younger players who will benefit enormously from the combined wisdom of these very experienced coaches. An interesting season awaits.
    Kind Regards
    Kerry Smith

  6. Skip of Skipton says:

    Cheers Kerry. I’m a Geelong supporter. It’s good to see Port Adelaide swallowing its pride and recruiting in some top coaches like Ken and Alan, instead of the ‘home-grown’ policy. Getting the fitness bloke back from Liverpool is a great coup aswell.

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