More people probably laughed than believed him when Ken Hinkley described Port Adelaide as a legitimate premiership contender back in February. However, the Power and their charismatic and likeable coach proved everyone wrong. Port Adelaide claimed the minor premiership and fell just short of a Grand Final in a thoroughly improved and incredibly exciting season. Hopefully for the Power, the best is yet to come with this young group.
Port Adelaide simply got the most out of its players. From Ken Hinkley's remarks of "look out, we're coming" in February, right throughout an interrupted and complicated season, the Power looked strong and united. They sat atop the ladder throughout the entire season, won the minor premiership, had five players selected in the 40-man All-Australian squad, helped Charlie Dixon claim second place in the Coleman Medal count and propelled Travis Boak to second in the Brownlow Medal. It was a superb season, regardless of the preliminary final result, and will give the club something to build from ahead of 2021.
'Failed' might be strong, given the way Port Adelaide travelled throughout the season, but there's no doubt the club would like to get another key defender into its mix. Tom Jonas, Tom Clurey and Trent McKenzie performed admirably throughout the year, but none stand above 193cm and each struggled against the game's dominant key forwards at times in 2020. The loss of Dougal Howard to St Kilda was felt throughout different stages over the course of the season, so gaining more defensive support would be a boost.
Travis Boak. The twilight of the veteran midfielder's career keeps getting better. Boak averaged 22.9 disposals, 5.0 clearances and kicked eight goals to poll 21 votes in Sunday night's Brownlow count and earn a second-place finish. Such a season has already earned the 32-year-old a third All-Australian blazer, while a third John Cahill Medal as Port Adelaide's best and fairest is surely waiting for him later this year.
Zak Butters. Port Adelaide's trio of first-round picks from the 2018 NAB AFL Draft got a lot of love last season, but the majority was saved for Connor Rozee and Xavier Duursma as both earned top-10 finishes in the club's best and fairest. However, this year, it was Butters who emerged as the next genuine star. He averaged 14.6 disposals, kicked 11 goals and earned a place in the 40-man All-Australian squad for his efforts. Add fellow youngsters like Mitch Georgiades, Miles Bergman and Dylan Williams to the mix and this is an exciting group.
In a season of few disappointments, the club's troubles managing Ryan Burton's body were a genuine shame. One of Port Adelaide's most promising young defenders, Burton suffered three separate setbacks to a quad injury throughout the year and was limited to just eight games as a result. Burton will clearly play a significant part in the Power's future fortunes, so ensuring he is able to stay fit should be a priority as the club heads into next season.
Port Adelaide won 15 games this year, but none were more exciting than a thrilling victory over Carlton in round seven. Robbie Gray's remarkable shot after the siren sailed through to earn a three-point win, after the Power trailed for the majority of the final term.
A heartbreaking six-point loss to Richmond in the preliminary final was not the way Port Adelaide's season deserved to finish. The Power were within touching distance throughout the entire game, but couldn't find a crucial late goal to tie things up.
How should they approach list management?
Port Adelaide is keeping its cards close to its chest ahead of the Trade Period. There have been tentative links to Brad Crouch and Orazio Fantasia, but the club has publicly distanced itself from both players. The club looks likely to retain important midfielder Ollie Wines, despite earlier suggestions he could return to Victoria, while key forward Charlie Dixon has already inked a three-year contract extension. As things stand, Port Adelaide doesn't hold a first-round pick at the upcoming NAB AFL Draft. Could it simply look to improve its position, mainly to get ahead of an Academy bid for talented young prospect Lachie Jones?
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Early call for 2021
Port Adelaide will be back. Yes, it will be hard for veterans like Travis Boak and Robbie Gray to retain such strong form, but the club has an abundance of talented youngsters. Expect players like Connor Rozee, Xavier Duursma, Zak Butters, Miles Bergman, Mitch Georgiades, Dylan Williams and Lachie Jones to help the Power continue their improvement in 2021.
A. It was an incredible season that no one saw coming. The narrow preliminary final defeat will hurt, but we shouldn't overlook just how improved this Port Adelaide team is.