Round 23 – Port Adelaide v Essendon: Port’s season ends with a whimper. How the weight of success can sometimes harm not help a club.

Port Adelaide v Essendon

Aug 24th, 2018

RD 23

Adelaide Oval, Adelaide


Port Adelaide’s fall from grace in season 2018 reached a new low last night in Adelaide as Essendon, a side who also won’t be competing for flag glory this year gave Port a lesson in hard work and team football. Port’s start to the game was poor, and apart from a run of goals in the second and last quarter, where Port never really looked in the game or that interested all night. It was a sad end to a season that saw Port sitting 11-4 only weeks ago. Now Port finish outside of the finals race for the third time in the last four seasons and for a club that prides itself on success and uses that success as a calling card to Alberton, the wasted year will burn deep.


Nowhere in the AFL competition does the weight of expectation hang lower than at Port Adelaide. Dominating the SANFL for so long brought premierships and honour to Alberton and gave its massive supporter base enormous pride. And an expectation that every year, not one in ten, would end in a grand final appearance. The continual equalisation of the AFL competition has made winning successive premierships and staying at the top of that tree very difficult. Few competitions in the world try so hard to even the competition up as the AFL do. Port’s supporter base, now furious and with a feeling of doom see another wasted season and are left wondering about creeds, mottos and that wonderful history and if it actually means much now.


The problem with mottos is simple; they have a habit of biting you on the backside all too often when things go pear shaped. In 2014 Port Adelaide were a fit, fast and exciting side to watch for fans and neutrals. But 2014 is a long time ago in football terms. No longer the fittest or fastest nor most skilled side, and nowhere near it, Port now looks hesitant, shows fitful inspiration and has one of the most mentally fragile playing groups in the AFL. Bereft of confidence and skill, Port in 2018 has reverted to slow, boring and dull safe football, the kind that puts supporters to sleep and worries few opposition teams. Their ball movement is poor and clumsy, the skill level is pathetic, and they seem intent on taking as long as possible to reach their own goals. That style of play will win few games and few fans.


Hearing about Ken Hinkley’s mantra of getting what you deserve is true. You do get what you deserve, and never has a season shown that more clearly than 2018. A good if not outstanding first half of the season petered out into something resembling a car crash, albeit with slightly unlucky losses to both Adelaide and West Coast late but also inexplicable losses to Fremantle in Perth, the worst side in the AFL, and last nights’ sorry and sad opening that led to a 22-point loss when Port still had everything to play for. Last week against Collingwood the Power produced three quarters of reasonable football and yet capitulated with a 22-minute display of utter rubbish. Last night that last quarter form spread into the first quarter; a team playing for nothing with no care nor interest in those poor Port Adelaide supporters who have given so much yet gotten so little in the last decade of football.


Expectation and success is a double edged sword. Winning so often so well for so long creates an entitlement and arrogance that works in your favour while that success continues but falls flat when it can’t be sustained. The fall for Port seems greater than any other club because of what has made Port so successful in the past. Now the club sits at the crossroads.


Few of the clubs list can hold their head high in 2018. Justin Westhoff has been terrific, getting better with age after a shaky start to his career and a certainty to win Port’s B & F this year. The defence has been very good considering the collective youth back there, with Tom Clurey and Darcy Byrne-Jones the standouts along with Tom Jonas, who has probably overtaken Ollie Wines as Port’s preferred Captain next year should Travis Boak be asked to or chooses to relinquish that role. If Port do go down that path then Wines should certainly be kept on as Vice-Captain, with an understanding that he still has a long way to go as a leader at Port. Jared Polec has been fantastic, his run and carry an oddity in Port’s style of play this year. Boak himself, along with Brad Ebert and Robbie Gray have given their all, and shown professionalism even in dire circumstances, but after that there are few positives.


Chad Wingard may well find himself put up as trade bait if he produces another year like this one. It isn’t that he doesn’t provide something at times. More that the lofty standards he set for himself in 2013/4 are not being met, leading to questions from outside of the club whether he needs a new home to take his wavering talent to a new and improved level.


Investing in rejected talent like Port did so heavily during last summer has failed. Jack Watts is a soft footballer who rarely dominates portions of games, let alone whole seasons. Steven Motlop has had his moments, but they are few and far between and Tom Rockcliff has battled injury all season since arriving. He may prosper next year if fit, but time is ticking on a battered body.


Off-field created more intrigue. Hinkley, who signed a multi-year deal recently must throw out his boring, creatively-defunct game plan and start afresh. Three assistant coaches leaving Alberton will mean three fresh voices – never a bad thing. Hinkley must also forever bin any rubbish, half-cooked cliques and slogans. At best they state the bleeding obvious, and at worst insult peoples’ intelligence when things go wrong as they have this year. Burn them Kenny, or they will burn you in no time.


The supporters deserve so much more. But of course, they expect so much more. And therein lies part of the problem. Expectation is important and expecting to be successful separates Port Adelaide from every SANFL club they battled against for years in the SANFL, and separates Port from clubs like St Kilda, Footscray, Melbourne and Collingwood in the AFL now. But realistically perhaps it is time to shelve the creed, shelve the stupid inane slogans and concentrate more on the now, and not on the past as much. Give the 145 plus years due hat doffing but move forward into the new age of football where drafts, priority picks and salary cap pressures dictate no club stays number one for long. Not even the Port Adelaide Football Club.


PORT ADELAIDE  1.1   5.6   9.7   13.11 (89)
ESSENDON          6.4   9.7  15.8  17.9 (111)


Port Adelaide: Westhoff 5, Ebert 2, Farrell, Gray, Polec, Frampton, Ryder, Boak
Essendon: Laverde 3, Brown 3, Langford 3, McDonald-Tipungwuti 2, Heppell 2, Zaharakis 2, Baguley, Myers 


Port Adelaide: Polec, Westhoff, Wingard, Boak
Essendon: Smith, Merrett, Goddard, Francis, Heppell, Parish, Brown, Zaharakis                                                                          


Port Adelaide: TBC
Essendon: Leuenberger (calf), Hurley 


Reports: TBC


Umpires: Margetts, Findlay, Mollison


Official crowd: 39,168 at the Adelaide Oval


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  1. Yes, here I sit in late August and effectively it is cricket season! Magpies have been a schemmozzle and Power little better. If it is true that a fish rots from the head, where does that leave Hinkley? Too easy to blame him entirely, I reckon there are a few players needing substantial heart surgery. Concerned that we are back to the aftermath of 2007 GF. Some pretty soft minded individuals, some carrying injuries and others just not up to it. As before, I blame recruiting to a substantial degree. Hoping month off in September will reveal some truths.

    Only 2 final thoughts: pitiful one that we finished above the Frootloops and (drum roll), is Justin Westhoff the next Michael Tuck? Certainly hope he can wipe K. Cornes off games list…

  2. Further to my comment re recruiting, seem to recall there was a Magpies match this season in which we had the No. 1,2 & 4 draft picks from about 2009 or 2010. Known as Watts, Trengove and Toumpas….. Says it all about recruiting I reckon.

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