From the draws to the classics and everything in between, season 2017 has been nothing short of a rollercoaster of emotions, with most teams experiencing periods of immense highs and crushing lows.
In a season defined by unpredictability, no team typifies the word more than Port Adelaide, who at 9-6 look set to come back to September for the first time in three seasons.
However, despite this impressive record many question marks still surround Ken Hinkley’s team as they are still yet to defeat a top eight side (West Coast were out of the eight before their clash) in 2017.
At their best the Power are one of the competitions most exciting teams with their fast-paced ball movement and ability to kick high scores resulting in them having one of the competitions best percentages.
This has been highlighted by big wins against Fremantle, Carlton, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Hawthorn where the Power were able to score over 100 points on all bar one occasion as well as kept their opposition below 70.
Along with these crushing wins, the Power have also notched up solid wins against good sides such as West Coast, Sydney, and Collingwood, all matches that Port would have seen as 50/50 games.
This improvement in the Power’s form can be put down to a slight adjustment in their game plan as well as a greater hunger to win and avoidance of the complacency that saw them lose games they should have won in the past.
In terms of stats Port have again improved in most major indicators, being ranked third in contested possessions, second in clearances, first in inside 50s and third in overall points scored.
These impressive stats should see the Power firmly entrenched in the top four and well and truly in contention for a premiership.
However, this is not the case thus far in 2017 as although many have talked up the Power they typically aren’t seen as one of the competitions elite sides.
This is due to their inability to win against good teams and respond when a side challenges them, especially at the pointy end of matches.
This has been evident in games against Adelaide, GWS, West Coast, Geelong, Essendon and Richmond as in just about all of these games Port were in a position to win and simply could not get it done when the pressure was on.
Considering the manner by which finals are played, this is a big problem for both Ken Hinkley and the players themselves as it indicates that their current list simply is not good enough to win a premiership.
In a competition where the star players are relatively spread out among the 18 teams, the bottom six (your six worst players) is what separates the good sides from the elite. At the moment, Port’s bottom end simply isn’t good enough to contend with a number of inexperienced players getting their first taste of AFL football.
Although having this youth in the side is not necessarily a bad thing it means that for now the Power are not quite ready to overcome their issues and become a true premiership contender.
Players such as Dan Houston, Joe Atley, Matt White, Tom Clurey, Darcy Byrne-Jones, Sam Powell-Pepper and Sam Gray make up the bottom tier of players in Port’s best 22, which compared to the likes of Adelaide, GWS and Geelong simply does not stack up and is the reason for their inability to claim a genuine scalp thus far in 2017.
With matches against North Melbourne (H), Melbourne (A), St Kilda (H), Adelaide (A), Collingwood (H), Western Bulldogs (A) and Gold Coast (H), Port still have time to work this problem out and give their younger players even more experience in finals type games such as the Showdown.
Looking at the draw coming up, the Power should expect to claim a position in the top four and a double chance, as their fast paced game style and scoring firepower should see them overpower the likes of North, Collingwood, the Bulldogs and Gold Coast. However, in order to truly break the pretender tag they simply must win at least two of Melbourne, Adelaide and St Kilda.
In a season where the Power were seen by many as a bottom 6-7 side and Ken Hinkley’s job was well and truly on the line it is safe to say 2017 will be a success no matter what happens come September. However, with such inexperience the Power simply aren’t ready to truly contend for the premiership in 2017 and should be looking at 2018 and beyond as a window to push for that illusive second premiership.