Port Adelaide captain Travis Boak
THE TIME has come for Port Adelaide to truly earn back the respect of the AFL, captain Travis Boak says.
The Power face Melbourne on Sunday at the MCG and, after two consecutive disastrous seasons, Boak said the round-one clash was a chance to begin to wipe the slate clean.
Optimism has run high at Alberton all pre-season, with several key changes at the club including new players, coaches, sponsors and administrators.
NAB Cup wins over West Coast and the Sydney Swans also boosted morale.
But Boak said his side's on-field performance was everything.
"It doesn't matter what you do in pre-season, it doesn't count for any points.
"We have to go in earning that respect back from the competition and we do that by the physicality and the tackling and hunting the ball and getting the wins.
"We're going into round one confident we've had the right preparation … it all starts now."
The importance of Sunday's match has been talked up for Melbourne, but interstate expectation has remained low for the Power.
Boak insisted a win would set the tone for the most critical season in the club's recent history.
"[It's] important for us to get off to a good start to have a good year, and what a great challenge it is against Melbourne at the MCG, our only game at the 'G for the year," he said.
"Their supporters are going to have great expectation on them and they're going to go in confident, just as we are.
"We've worked on a lot of things in our game that weren't there last year, with the tackling and the skills - just with the whole defensive side has really taken a step up.
"Most of the top-four sides, top-eight sides, are great defensive sides and that's what we've got to focus on."
The 24-year-old said up to five players could make their AFL debuts, with Jake Neade, Oliver Wines and recently elevated rookie Kane Mitchell all likely to play their first games.
All three impressed during the NAB Cup and Boak said any nerves they felt would be eased by the support of their teammates.
"I know I was nervous with my first game.
"We'll talk to those guys and help them out and I'm sure they're looking forward to getting out there and having a run.
"Ollie's been great, he's added that hard edge to the midfield … just gives us a bit more depth as well.
"We're looking forward to [Neade] causing a bit of havoc down in that forward line."
Harry Thring is a reporter for AFL Media. Follow him on Twitter: @AFL_Harry.