Almanac Season Review: Port Adelaide Football Club

 

Port Adelaide’s season started with much promise and hope after an indifferent 2015 that saw the club slide back out of the finals having made a preliminary final against Hawthorn the season before. And an easier draw was supposed to get Port off to a flying start to begin the climb back up the ladder. But things didn’t work out the way most expected. The easier draw turned problematic as early as round two with a comprehensive loss to Adelaide followed by a thumping at the hands of the AFL’s latest franchise Greater Western Sydney. It was a belting that eroded much confidence and was the first sign for 2016 that all was not well at Alberton.

 

Geelong then came to Adelaide and after a good start by Port the Cats showed why they are a class above most other football teams. Port went to Melbourne the week after and sought to get back on the winners list against Richmond, a side that would go on to have a terrible season on and off the field. Like 2015, it was Port’s loss to Carlton, late, at Etihad Stadium that signalled a lack of mental strength from Port. Leading by 18 points late in the game Port allowed Carlton back into the game and gave up the ascendency to be pipped at the post by a hungrier side. The warning bells were now loudly chiming.

 

Port made amends against Collingwood back in Melbourne in the club’s best win for the year, albeit against a side that was clearly struggling. Port played steadily more intelligent football throughout the game, went smaller in attack and ended up confusing and at times baffling the Pies with quick and direct wet weather football. It was a standard sadly Port could not maintain.

 

A defeat to the Western Bulldogs in round 12 was heartbreaking; Port had played the better football throughout the match and were unlucky not to get over the line, eventually losing by three points. A shattering loss to Fremantle the following week in Perth saw Port’s season derailed with nine games still  remaining. A loss that was against a side that itself was floundering at the bottom of the ladder. Hawthorn, Port’s bunny for much of the last few years, got one back despite the efforts of Kane Mitchell’s tagging role on his namesake. Another loss and another baffling disappointment.

 

Port found another gear against North Melbourne and played their second best game for the year, but that victory was surrounded by more poor losses against GWS again and Sydney in Sydney, never a happy hunting ground for the Power. Two further losses to Melbourne and Adelaide again in Adelaide and pride was all that was on the line moving into the last minor round game for the season against Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium in Queensland. It was a win to end a very poor season. A season in which there were few positives and many negatives to look back on.

 

So what went wrong, what worked and what needs to change? As it happens, a lot.

 

Early on there seemed to be issues within the sections of the playing group, or more so a couple of the leaders. Travis Boak, a solid if not elite midfielder, started the season poorly and it rarely got much better. And as captain that spelt bad news for Port from the beginning. Leadership was lacking at Port in 2016, and a significant finger could be pointed at Boak, who to his credit did find a semblance of form later in the year. But by then the finals were merely a wet dream.

 

Not that Boak was alone as a senior player to let Port down in 2016. Hamish Hartlett, before getting a season ending injury, was far from at his best and Brad Ebert the same. Ollie Wines, Robbie Gray and Matthew Broadbent, basically Port’s engine room, all had seasons of mixed fortunes. Wines looks slow at times and his ball use isn’t up to AFL standard. That must improve, so his skills can finally match his enthusiasm and endeavour. Ebert’s bravery could never be questioned, and his guts in a number of losing sides was appreciated and encouraging to see. But like Wines, his ball use is poor. Chad Wingard ends season 2016 perhaps the victim of his own lofty standards and endless highlights reel. At times throughout the season he looked lazy, disinterested and sullen. In between he’d be relied upon to kick the impossible goal, but the consistency wasn’t there. His All-Australian form of a few years back seems like just a distant memory now.

 

The non-use of Paddy Ryder and Angus Monfries still rankles at Port, and while the club were quick to voice their displeasure before the season began about how another club’s cheating cost Port two of its key players the club moved on, even allowing for the AFL’s strange stance of not allowing Port at least one extra top-up player – like Essendon had been allowed to even though they were the club that brought the competition into disrepute. Ryder was missed and his absence cost Port options in both the ruck and attack.

 

Thankfully both will be back at Port for pre-season training and should be fresh and mentally ready to go in round one in 2017.

 

Losing both Ryder and Monfries, and then Carlisle, White, Hartlett, Schulz and Wingard at the end hurt hard. Port could never really put their best side on the park week in week out. But there are no excuses given nor wanted when discussing Port’s inability to play a solid brand of football over four quarters each week. Too often Port would do well for a quarter, a quarter and a half, yet fall massively off the pace. Port’s mental approach and mental strength was poor and their inability to dig in when things didn’t go their way a worrying concern.

 

There were few shining lights but it was Port’s use of youth (brought on by injuries and poor form) that did warm some hearts at Alberton. Darcy Byrne-Jones playing in defence was brilliant: a good reader of the play, full of courage, and able to find the ball often. Jasper Pittard had a terrific season, although possibly tired towards the last few games. His ball-winning, ability to take the game on and run the antidote to Port’s sluggish, error-riddled ball movement in general made Pittard look the only one capable – along with the improved Jarmen Impey – of breaking a game open through the centre. If not for those two, Port’s run would have resembled a Cliff Young shuffle. There were few other positives.

 

What we learnt about Port Adelaide in 2016…

 

– Charlie Dixon can’t mark, and is injury-prone (gee, who knew…)

– Matthew Lobbe, Kane Mitchell, John Butcher, Cam O’Shea, Jimmy Thoumpas and Paul Stewart all need delisting. They aren’t AFL standard, and perhaps never were.

– Port’s mental fragility needs work – call in the psych.

– Port Adelaide’s coaching box had a woeful year. Hinkley doesn’t appear to have a Plan B. By March 2017 he needs to find one.

– Port’s skill level is terrible and the footballs need to come out early over Summer.

– Port no longer has a huge home ground advantage at Adelaide Oval – and haven’t the fans spoken with their feet?

 

It can be turned around in 2017. No question. But from the president down to the guy that fills the Gatorade bottles on game day everyone connected with Port Adelaide must lift, and decide exactly what they stand for. And the sort of legacy they want to leave. Football clubs, apart from Fitzroy and University, tend to be around for a long time. Players and coaches not so much. While Hinkley and Boak and David Koch and Keith Thomas are in charge of this football club, they will know all too well that their presence is fleeting. So, why not leave something for the next leaders at Port. And why not leave a legacy? Something that all supporters can be proud of?

 

The hard work starts in a matter of weeks. This summer is vital for Port. Expect Port to be active at the trade table. And expect a significant beefing up of Port’s match day coaches box, with at least two assistants to depart.

 

Let’s not forget Port Adelaide’s reason for being: ‘We exist to win premierships’. 2017 is the perfect time to re-engage with that philosophy.

 

CHRIS MICHAELS

 

Comments

  1. Chris while I totally agree it was a disgrace by the afl that the power didn’t get at least 1 player re the bombers cheating it was also mind blowing stupid by the power not to have a rookie ruckman listed for this potential happening.Lobbe has gone from being a key player in 2014 to debatable whether he is good enough for SANFL let alone afl a incredible decline.Port were hit big time with injuries especially in defence combined with,Jonas brain fade.Dixon as you correctly point out marking was diabolical it was like his hands were rocks he was fine in that regard at the Suns his endeavour was good but his marking must improve big time for the power to claw back it will be interesting to see what the power do at the trade table.What changes were you proposing for the power coaching box ?

  2. Chris my Dad barracks for the Power. After 80 years barracking for West Torrens in the SANFL they are lunatic enough for him to feel at home.
    Like JTH the gap between Power’s best and worst astonishes me. Fill me in on these 3 blokes that I really (used to) rate:
    Hamish Hartlett – I reckon he is the best kick in the comp. Used to be cool and calculating with the ball. Injured? Disinterested?
    Matthew Lobbe – Looked a champion ruckman in the making in 2014. Remember him taking Geelong apart in a final. He looked good to me against Jacobs in the Showdown a fortnight ago, but now the esteemed Rulebook says he’s scarcely at SANFL level. What the? Did I read him wrong in 2014? Did the Ryder signing destroy his confidence?
    Chad Wingard – Bloke is a human hignlight reel, but he seems to have an ongoing identity crisis. Looks like he should be a midfielder but does he have the tank or the spirit for the contest? Reminds me a bit of Mark LeCras who was a marking small forward before Kennedy matured. Doesn’t like the close stuff in the midfield but still does some clever things. The trouble with small forwards continually flying for marks is that it’s low percentage and guarantees a shortage of crumbers. What do you think Chad should be when he grows up?
    P.S. – Your softening the Crows up for us was much appreciated. The pricked balloons (ballooned pricks?) down at West Lakes are very quiet this week.

  3. Rulebook – Thanks for the comments. Well the changes are coming. Wrote that yesterday and last night Mitchell and Butcher are gone. Muffins was slightly unlucky.

    Hocking also sacked from the coaches box. I expect one more change in the coaches box now that Lade has been sacked from Richmond. Port has him in their sights.

    Lobbe is the great mystery. Such a good 2014. So bad since. Cant understand it. Trengove did well considering the lack of back up.

  4. “Matthew Lobbe, Kane Mitchell, John Butcher, Cam O’Shea, Jimmy Thoumpas and Paul Stewart all need delisting. They aren’t AFL standard, and perhaps never were.” Hate to say it, but spot on.

    Thought Clurey and Austin showed glimpses but DBJ was the find of the season and Pittard repaid the years of faith invested in him.

    The draft and trading will be interesting. Reckon Power need a really good midfielder to allow R Gray to move up forward. Perhaps Impey could be the guy?

    Thanks for your insights throughout the season.

  5. Peter B – Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could soften the Clowns up for hopefully a straight exit out of finals.

    I may be wrong on Hartlett but I smell disinterest born from player fall out in leadership group. And he is so injury prone. Elite when great…rather he was at Callington FC when bad.

    Lobbe just has disappeared since 2014. I was a big wrap for him then but barely a decent SANFL player now. Surely with Ryder to come back his Port days are numbered.

    Wingard is the enigma. So good yet so sullen and disinterested at times. Needw motivation lessons. And a bit of a wake up call. Probably could have done with being dropped this year just to wake him up to the fine line of AFL football. Id hate to think his best is already behind him. But on current view thats exactly the case. Hope he proves me wrong.

  6. MarcD – Thanks for the feedback.
    Impey has really progressed. One of the few Port players who has speed and the desire to take the game on. We need 10 more like him.

    Interesting that already Muffins, Mitchell and Bitcher all gone already. Hocking too. And now Carlilse. More to come.

    Clurey I like. Hombsch too and Jonas. Thats the defence backbone right there. With Pittard and Impey running off half back.

  7. Hi Chris, an observation from afar. Was 2016 worse than 2015 ?

    in 2014 you were unlucky not to win your way through to a Grand Final, Many people,me included, thought 2015 would be a top season for you chaps .Top four finish a monty. Then the season started. So in light of not meeting widely held expectations in 2015 , how much worse is 2016?

    Hinkley not having a plan B? Maybe he’s gone as far as he can. Great start to his AFL career,lifting your club out of the doldrums, but he’s not been able to go that step further. I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on the return of the former Windy Hill pair. Monfries has played his best footy, Ryder, top athlete, but is he a ruckman, or a tall,running forward / onballer? Can he and Lobbe play in the same line up ?

    Good luck for 2017,but youse need to do some serous thinking over the off season.St Kilda and Melbourne are both more likely finals contenders in 2017, Collingwood,possibly also may offer more than Port Adelaide. Always remember, “The future is unwritten.”

    Glen!

  8. Dave Brown says:

    I think the game has moved beyond Lobbe a bit, even in the last two years. A bit like Maric, being pretty big and slightly mobile doesn’t cut it anymore in the world of Mumfords, Naitanuis and Gawns. Jacobs who was a similar player a couple of years back provides so much more in linking Adelaide’s play than Lobbe does at Port. Unfair to describe him as barely cutting it at SANFL level however. In pretty much the only full, fit game he played at that level this year (a few weeks back) he smashed a good ruckman in Craig at North with 48 hitouts, 19 disposals, 11 tackles, 5 clearances and a goal.

    Mitchell, Colquhoun & O’Shea seem like good calls – very good state league players but limited in key areas. My Power supporting friends think Butch will end up on another AFL list. Still whacking the side of my head to make sure I heard that right. That said I reckon the Magpies gave up on him as a defender too early.

    Make or break next season for Yes We Ken. Does he have a Plan B and can he motivate his cattle to deliver it?

  9. Glen – I think this year has been worse than 2015. Port got ahead of themselves last yr but there are no such excuses now.

    Ryder will play both ruck and in attack. Hes a better option than Dixon and Lobbe thats for sure.

  10. Dave Brown – The test for Hinkley will be formulating the plan b and motivating troops. Havent seen that side of him yet. But time will tell.

    Lobbe is the big disappointment. Can he find some form..he was hocked around at trade week last year so maybe Port doesnt think so.

    As for Butcher I cant understand any other club being interested. Hes a heart breaker sadly.

  11. Pretty well summed it up, Chris. your list of de-listings reads almost identical to the one I made earlier myself (last Thursday). I would also cut Amon loose, too poor a kick and just not enough impact. How Toumpas was a number 5 draft pick is beyond me, watched him with Magpies and he is making little impact there; trouble is I think we gave him a 3 year deal so don’t know what happens there. Sorry to see Big Bobby go today, but also think his time was up. Seems to be some mind problems to deal with also and those are not easily solved. If we made some small contribution to the demise of the Frootloops (Peter_B above) then I am slightly more content.

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