AFL

2017 Crystal Ball: Port Adelaide

The Power entered 2016 with great expectations, with many tipping them to bounce back from a disappointing 2015 campaign. However, it was a season of disappointment for Port Adelaide, finishing an underwhelming 10th on the ladder. Heading into 2017, Port Adelaide are one of the great unknowns of the season in terms of which team is going to show up on a consistent basis.

BEST 22

B: Darcy Byrne-Jones, Jack Hombsch, Jasper Pittard

HB: Hamish Hartlett, Tom Clurey, Matthew Broadbent

C: Brad Ebert, Robbie Gray, Jared Polec

HF: Sam Gray, Justin Westhoff, Chad Wingard

F: Aaron Young, Charlie Dixon, Jackson Trengove

Foll: Patrick Ryder, Oli Wines, Travis Boak

Int: Karl Amon, Sam Powell-Pepper, Jarman Impey, Brett Eddy

Emg: Tom Jonas, Riley Bonner, Jake Neade

The core group for Port Adelaide is still very strong, with Robbie Gray, in particular, elevating himself to the elite in the AFL and Ollie Wines looks set to join him this season. However, their development has been offset by the decline of Brad Ebert and Travis Boak, who both had less than stellar seasons in 2016.

A big boost for Port Adelaide this year will be the return of a genuine ruckman in Patrick Ryder. Matthew Lobbe proved that he wasn’t up to it last year and whilst Jackson Trengove was serviceable, he is too undersized to be considered a full-time ruck.

It is up forward though where Ken Hinkley will be kept awake at night wondering how to get the right mix. So far the acquisition of Charlie Dixon has been an abject failure and one that could ultimately result in Hinkley’s departure. A key issue for the Power is that when Westhoff, Dixon and Trengove play together in the forward line, they look slow and cumbersome when the ball hits the ground, meaning the ball leaves just as quickly as it came into the forward 50.

The drive Port Adelaide can get from their rebounding defenders is what is going to define their season. Jasper Pittard might give everyone around him nightmares when he sets off on a mazy run, but his ability to take the game on is going to be a key part of Hinkley’s run and gun strategy.

GAME SPLITS

Thursday: 2

Friday: 1

Saturday: 14

Sunday: 5

The Power have a reasonable draw, with the opportunity to play both the Lions and the Suns twice this season a highlight.

A big plus for the Power in their fixture is on the logistical side of things, with only three six-day breaks in season 2017 and they never play away from Adelaide in consecutive weeks which is key for a side with flimsy confidence.

Whilst the logistics might check out, the start to the season for Port Adelaide is tough, with two trips to Sydney and a showdown all taking place in the first four weeks. If Port Adelaide don’t hit the ground running, their good draw later in the year – where they play four of five games to finish the season at Adelaide Oval – might mean zilch.

KEY GAMES

Round 3 vs Adelaide @ Adelaide Oval

Games don’t get much bigger than the Showdown and as mentioned previously, this might be a very early “must-win” game for Port Adelaide if they wish to play finals in 2017.  A loss to their bitter rivals and the early sharpening of the knives might start.

Round 8 vs Gold Coast @ Jiangwan Stadium

A historic occasion for the AFL as the first competitive match is played in China. Whilst there has been “furore” over what jumpers each team will wear, this is sure to be an amazing spectacle and an important game for Port Adelaide if they want to build their brand in the Chinese market.

Round 18 vs Melbourne @ MCG

If Port Adelaide are serious about playing finals, beating Melbourne at the MCG would be a good way to prove it, considering they are likely to be one of their direct contenders for a spot in the top 8. If they can’t, we should write them off for the season.

FANTASY GOLD: OLLIE WINES

Ever since Ollie Wines and his ginormous quadriceps entered the AFL, he seemed like he belonged and each year his fantasy game has gone to another level as well. Whilst underrated by many in the fantasy community due to his lack of big scoring, Wines in 2016 established himself as the most consistent midfielder with an average over 100 in the AFL.

The bulk of Wines’ scoring comes on the inside but with another preseason under his belt, his outside spread will continue to improve and he will be able to pick up easier possessions on the outside, further boosting his scoring.

BREAKOUT PLAYER: KARL AMON

Karl Amon is entering his fourth season on Port Adelaide’s list and the pick 68 from the 2013 national draft is giving every indication that he might be ready to make an impact at AFL level in 2017. Port Adelaide people have been raving about his preseason about how he is ready to take the next step. His form in the JLT Series confirmed this.

Playing as a half-forward that will push into the midfield rotation, Amon had his best game of the preseason against Hawthorn where he collected 21 disposals and was also able to kick a goal. If he maintains that output throughout the season, he will be an extremely valuable player for Port Adelaide.

LADDER PREDICTION: 13TH

Will the real Port Adelaide please stand up? What happened to the 2014 version that went within a kick of playing in a grand final? Or was that year merely an aberration? Regardless, based on the body of work Port Adelaide has produced over the past two seasons, it is hard to be filled with any confidence about the club going into 2017.

The Power will finish in the lower echelons of the table and the pressure will be amplified on Ken Hinkley as he keeps scratching his head for answers as to why his club can no longer play with the dare and drive that they were previously renowned for.

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