PORT Adelaide's bid to re-emerge as a force in 2016 has started with a 33-point win over St Kilda at Adelaide Oval on Easter Sunday.
However the nature of the Power's victory won't convince the skeptics they have fixed the issues that undermined their 2015 season, forced to overcome a 21-point third-quarter deficit for the 20.13 (133) to 15.10 (100) win.
The Saints welcomed Port's invitation to engage in a shoot-out, and the result was a pulsating end-to-end battle which ebbed and flowed for three quarters, and only turned in Port's favour after Chad Wingard's mark on centre wing in time-on in the third term.
From that point Port kicked eight goals to one and finally found ways to slow the Saints' relentless run.
But the transition turnovers and poor defensive accountability which dogged Port in its disappointing ninth-placed 2015 season were issues for three quarters.
The Power coughed up three turnover goals in the opening quarter and went at 50 per cent efficiency by foot for the term.
To three-quarter time, the Saints kicked eight ‘out-the-back' goals as their small forwards and midfielders relentlessly pushed in behind a besieged Port's back six.
Tom Hickey played the best match of his career in the ruck for the Saints, collecting 56 hit-outs and helping midfielders Jack Steven (36 possessions), Leigh Montagna (29), David Armitage (28) and Seb Ross (30) enjoy prolific games.
That quartet had 122 possessions between them as St Kilda kicked out to a game-high 21-point lead on the back of a Josh Bruce goal entering time-on in the third term.
To that point, 10 of St Kilda's 14 goals had come from small forwards or midfielders as they pushed in behind the Port defence and got goalside on numerous occasions.
Port's Robbie Gray kept his side in the contest with three second-term goals and he finished with four goals and 26 possessions, his stoppage work superb.
Gray and Wingard's (three goals, 21 disposals) brilliance helped spark Port's eight-goal final term, as star Power recruit Charlie Dixon (three goals) got on top inside 50 and whet fans appetites with his strong marking.
Port led by just four points 19 minutes into the final term, but blew the margin out with six goals in 10 minutes as the Saints ran out of legs.
Power coach Ken Hinkley maintained the club's game-plan wasn't to blame for it conceding 14 goals to three-quarter time and instead pinpointed a lack of defensive intensity up the ground.
He said Port would continue to play with dare when in possession and needed to execute better under pressure to avoid the turnover goals which hurt it on Sunday.
"I say to the players every week that you cannot get perfection or mastery but you've got to chase it," HInkley said.
"I can accept mistakes, as long as the intensity's right.
"One of the key things they learned, one of their comments was, ‘I don't think the options were all wrong', I think the execution let them down. I like it when they can acknowledge that."
Hinkley was full of praise for Gray, and said he gave the silky forward-midfielder licence to shift into attack when he saw fit. Gray kicked three second-term goals and again moved forward with great effect in the final term.
"I nearly leave it with Robbie, to be honest. As I said to him before the game, 'If it's going OK in the middle, spend some more time forward – we need you up there'," Hinkley said.
"We know Robbie's equally as damaging in both positions, it's a little bit of timing.
"He gets a fair licence to do what he needs to do at the right times."
Saints coach Alan Richardson said his side was reluctant to accept plaudits for its impressive opening three quarters and said it lost its attacking dare when the game was on the line.
"We certainly still had the opportunites from a clearance point of view in the last quarter, we just could not get the ball out of our back half," Richardson said.
"We just lost a bit of dare. We'd been playing some pretty aggressive footy with the ball in hand...We just became too conservative.
"It was as if we were trying to save a game that was already working away from us, as opposed to playing with the same sort of dare that we played with early in the game.
"We looked better for big parts of that game and we got in a position late in the third quarter to give ourselves a great opportunity to have a really good result and we fell away.
"We focus much more on the fact we let ourselves down (than the positives)."
The win was soured by a pectoral injury to speedy midfielder Matthew White, who didn't return to the field after suffering the injury during a tackle in the first term.
Port Adelaide has confirmed speedster Matthew White’s injury was a right pectorial strain, and he could miss up to three months. The former Tiger came off the ground in the opening term and didn’t re-emerge. He will have scans this week.
Port has the chance to inflict a telling early season blow on cross-town rival Adelaide in a round two Showdown which carries massive importance for both clubs next Saturday. It doesn’t get any easier for the brave Saints, who take on the lightning-quick Bulldogs at their beloved Etihad Stadium on Saturday night.
PORT ADELAIDE 4.1 9.2 13.9 20.13 (133)
ST KILDA 4.4 9.8 14.9 15.10 (100)
Port Adelaide: R.Gray 4, Ebert 3, Wingard 3, Dixon 3, Westhoff 2, Boak, Broadbent, Schulz, Wines, Ah Chee
St Kilda: Lonie 3, Weller 2, Bruce 2, Riewoldt 2, Gresham, Steven, Gilbert, Newnes, Acres, Armitage
Port Adelaide: R.Gray, Wingard, Hartlett, Ebert, Westhoff, S.Gray
St Kilda: Steven, Armitage, Hickey, Ross, Weller, Fisher, Newnes
Port Adelaide: White (pectoral)
St Kilda: Dempster (head)
Umpires: Deboy, Nicholls, Kamolins
Official crowd: 43,807 at Adelaide Oval