PORT Adelaide midfielder Ollie Wines is "ready to take on the competition" in 2021, according to coach Ken Hinkley, as he hits his prime years with a Power team driven by its preliminary final heartbreak.
Wines, who finished equal fifth in the Power's best and fairest last year, is entering his ninth season and will again hold the Power vice-captaincy after committing to the club until the end of 2026.
Twice a runner-up in Port's best and fairest award (2016 and 2018), the accolades haven't flowed for Wines outside the club, despite the high levels he has reached, but Hinkley put the competition on notice that his midfield bull is ready for a strong season.
"He's at the stage of his career where he's ready to just take on the competition in the position he plays," Hinkley told AFL.com.au.
"He actually has been at a very high level in his time with us through his career (and) he plays a really difficult, demanding position where he has to be a big bull.
"He's had two shoulder reconstructions in the last couple of years and he plays in the most physical position on the ground.
"I think when we've played our best footy, Ollie plays really well for us."
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Despite undergoing shoulder surgery on the eve of last season, Wines played some of the best football of his 158-game career after an interrupted 2019 that proved tough for the former co-captain.
Putting a serious shoulder injury, broken leg, and broken thumb behind him, the Echuca product averaged 21.8 disposals in shortened matches last year and 4.8 clearances, ranked third and second at Port respectively.
He led the Power for contested possessions and won almost half of his touches the hard way (10.6 a game).
It was the seventh straight season he had averaged more than 20 possessions and more than 10 contested.
"It was because he got to play a lot of football young, and the way he plays football, I think people maybe underestimate how difficult it is to play in that position as strongly as Ollie plays it consistently for us," Hinkley said.
"He's a big motivator of the team and he drives them, pushes them along and carries them through that contested part of the game."
Wines is part of a part of a group of players at Port Adelaide in the middle stages of their careers that have Hinkley excited.
There is hype around the young stars, like Zak Butters and Connor Rozee, who have a quick impact in the AFL, and Port's senior players continue to deliver, led by Brownlow Medal runner-up Travis Boak.
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But it is the group in between, including All Australian Darcy Byrne-Jones, Dan Houston, Tom Clurey and recruits Aliir Aliir and Orazio Fantasia, that have caught the coach's eye.
"The confidence in that middle tier improving is obvious to me and I see them train every day almost," Hinkley said.
"They fill me with confidence that they're going to be OK."
Hinkley labelled draftee Lachie Jones (pictured below) "a bit of a beast", with the powerful young midfielder making an early impression in his time at Port.
"He played senior football last year and he's a mature body. I'm sure he'll have an impact in his first year, no doubt," Hinkley said.
"They seem to come in ready more than ever now. They have real confidence and they come in knowing they belong and they can play.
"Lachie's going to have some opportunities this year to show everyone what he is capable of."
The coach said Port's 2019 draftees, including Miles Bergman, Dylan Williams and Jackson Mead, were "busting to play some footy and show what they can do" after missing out on opportunities in 2020.