IF VETERAN Travis Boak is Port Adelaide's best player this season, then it might surprise some to say youngster Zak Butters is next in line.

But the numbers, and those within the Power, highlight Butters' impact in his second season at AFL level and his influence on Port's fortunes.

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Butters, who broke onto the scene last year alongside fellow first-season wonders Connor Rozee and Xavier Duursma, has stepped it up a few notches to be a pivotal player in Port's 4-1 start to the season.

Asked if the assessment to have Butters behind Boak as Port Adelaide's best player this season was fair, forwards assistant coach Nathan Bassett didn't shy away.

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"I think that's reasonable, particularly the last four [games]. Zak wasn't great in round one but he's been very good since then and at times he looks like our best player," Bassett said.

Despite games being shortened by 25 per cent in length, Champion Data statistics show Butters has lifted his output in key criteria.

He's averaging more disposals, marks, score involvements and tackles, partly because of an increased presence up the ground and on the wing having improved his running.

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And it's easy to see why the Power wants the No.12 pick from the 2018 NAB AFL Draft to have even more of the ball.

When Butters kicks into Port's forward 50, the Power retain the ball 69 per cent of the time (ranked third at the club behind Hamish Hartlett at 80 per cent and Boak at 71 per cent).

They take a mark inside 50 39 per cent of the time, which is only bettered at Port Adelaide behind Hartlett at 40 per cent, while the Power retain the ball from 88 per cent of Butters' disposals. This is second at the club behind Ryan Burton at 90 per cent.

"It's a strength of his. His vision, his awareness of what's happening around him, he knows where he's going normally before he's got it," Bassett said.

"We are trying to keep the balance between his creativity and what he sees, and the percentage play. We don't want to curb his creativity.

"He's got as good a creativity as there is in the AFL, so sometimes it's stretching that while understanding that every now and again we're going to get a mistake that looks maybe not quite so good but the pay-off is there'll be a lot more good ones for it."

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Butters, who kicked 12 goals from 19 games last season, has booted four from five appearances this season as his midfield time rises to about 35 per cent of his matches.

The 19-year-old is renowned at the Power for his bland palate and taste in food, but has shown his in-your-face attitude and cheeky personality on the field.

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But Bassett said it was his approach to the shutdown period which highlighted his growth as a player, as Butters stayed in South Australia to continue to work with teammates.

"I thought he was terrific during that break. He spent time with lots of different players and one-on-ones, and was across a really broad cross-section of our footy club – younger and older, which I thought showed great maturity from a 19-year-old. He's come back and been very good," he said.

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Butters is already one of Port's go-to players to deliver the ball, but the club sees plenty of improvement within the first-round pick.

"Zak's biggest change this year is getting to more contests, and when he gets it he's got so much talent. His body is a little bit more AFL ready this year – he looks almost like a 16-year-old now rather than a 12-year-old," he said.

Zak Butters

2019 Avg.

2019 Club Rank

2020 Avg.

2020 normalised*

2020 Club Rank

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Score Involvements












*2020 averages multiplied by 1.25 to bring the shorter game time up to match previous seasons.