PORT Adelaide's trio of ruckmen will all be given the chance to battle for the No.1 role, with Power midfield coach Josh Carr confident the club's aggressive Trade Period can help its lofty ambitions for 2024.
The Power are this week on their training camp on the Gold Coast, with the full squad together in their last block of pre-season before their Christmas break.
Off-season inclusions Ivan Soldo (from Richmond), Jordon Sweet (Western Bulldogs), Esava Ratugolea (Geelong) and Brandon Zerk-Thatcher (Essendon) have all joined the club, with a focus set to be on who takes on the leading ruck mantle between Soldo, Sweet and youngster Dante Visentini, who made his AFL debut last season.
Carr, who returned to the club last season as an assistant coach after three years at Fremantle, said the coming months would shape how Port sets up its ruck strategy given the acquisitions.
"At the moment we're not doing a lot of stoppage work or anything like that so they're not getting to challenge each other or themselves a lot but we slowly will filter that into the group," Carr told AFL.com.au.
"So far if you just look at them athletically they all get over the ground well and I feel there's a bit of confidence about all three of them, so there's going to be a good competition for the No.1 ruck spot. Then what it looks like from there and how it all fits together I think will naturally work itself out.
"It's healthy to have competition and it's no different than any other area. It's more focused with rucks but you forget that with midfielders there's lots of midfielders who are trying to get in to play midfield who are missing out so competition's healthy as long as they do it in the right way.
"I think everyone will get a fair crack at being the No.1 ruck."
They will be rucking to an all-star midfield unit, with recent leadership appointments captain Connor Rozee and vice-captain Zak Butters coming off All-Australian seasons (Rozee his second in a row). Carr, who coached Rozee to a premiership at SANFL club North Adelaide in his draft year in 2018, said the 23-year-old was ready for the skipper title.
"He's always had a balance in his life. That's probably the number one value that he has and then his performance over the last couple of years has probably allowed him to still stay the same person. I think he's got a really good way in how he communicates to his teammates and to everyone," Carr said.
Carr also spent his off-season searching to improve. After returning to Port Adelaide at the end of 2022 following a coaching stint at Fremantle, the 2004 premiership player used some of his break to travel to America as part of a small group with the AFL Coaches Association, visiting different universities and hearing from lecturers, coaches and psychologists.
It came after his decision last year to withdraw from the Richmond coaching process following Damien Hardwick's departure, when Carr was viewed as a strong candidate for the Tigers role. However, after moving states recently with his family and through discussions with Port Adelaide, Carr decided to stay at Alberton Oval.
"In the end, I want to be a senior coach, so obviously going through the start of my process was really enjoyable because you make sure everything you've learned in your time as a coach you're putting it onto the paper and communicating it," he said.
"After sitting down with my family and my wife and also the footy club as well, I thought the best decision for me right now was to hold off and keep developing and keep learning. I do feel like I'm getting closer and I think when or if the time comes, I think I'm ready to go."
Carr works closely with senior coach Ken Hinkley, who signed a two-year contract extension last season through to the end of 2025, with Hinkley helping guide Carr with his coaching path. The pair are part of a wider coaching panel and playing group keen to rebound from their finals exit this year.
"Kenny's been good. He includes me on a lot of stuff that I guess not everyone would get included in and we talk a lot about coaching together and what senior coaching is and all the challenges that he faces. He's helping me in preparing and to know what I'm in for," he said.
"My number one job is to be the best coach that I can be. That's going to give Ken the best opportunity to be successful. That hasn't changed, that's my role as an assistant coach – to be the best coach that I can be and make sure that I'm always there for the senior coach."