PORT Adelaide's recruiting staff will be giving each other a pat on the back after a pair of off-season arrivals helped orchestrate a 71-point AAMI Community Series thumping of Adelaide at Flinders University Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Former Essendon forward Orazio Fantasia and ex-Swan Aliir Aliir look set to make last year's minor premiers even stronger as the Power sent an ominous message to the rest of the competition with a comfortable 17.14 (116) to 6.9 (45) victory.
CROWS v POWER Full match coverage and stats
It was a lopsided contest in the south Adelaide suburb of Noarlunga as a strong Power line-up held the Crows goalless during a dominant opening term and were able to rest a host of key players after half-time as they cruised home against their crosstown rival.
Fantasia looked at home inside forward 50 as he helped himself to 3.3 during an impressive half of football, while Aliir did as he pleased across half back to finish with 21 disposals and 14 marks in a best-on-ground performance.
Livewire Connor Rozee (16 disposals, nine marks and two goals) also produced some highlights, with the exciting forward beating the three-quarter time siren with a ridiculous snapped goal and backing it up shortly after with a big contested mark on the wing.
However, Rozee will be absent for the Power's round one clash against North Melbourne after the club confirmed post-match that he would have surgery on a foot problem that has hampered his preparation in recent weeks.
The victory could have been even greater as Ken Hinkley was able to rest Travis Boak, Charlie Dixon, Tom Clurey and Fantasia after half-time, providing fringe players the opportunity to stake their claim for a round one berth against North Melbourne.
Key forward Mitch Georgiades and ruckman Peter Ladhams (two goals apiece) showed enough to be considered, but Port coach Ken Hinkley will have some tough decisions to make at the selection table when he picks his 22 to take on the Kangaroos.
While the Crows were missing a host of key players on Sunday, they will be disappointed they weren't able to mix it with the Power for much of the one-sided clash.
Former skipper Taylor Walker booted three goals and was lively up forward, while Rory Laird (25 disposals), Matt Crouch (24) and Brodie Smith (24) won plenty of the ball. But it was left to too few as Port Adelaide largely did what it liked.
Former Swan Aliir Aliir looks set to slot seamlessly into Port Adelaide's backline in 2021, following an excellent display against the Crows. Fellow recruit Orazio Fantasia will be a good pickup too based on his three-goal effort. Untried youngster Miles Bergman (17 disposals and eight marks) was solid across half-back and draftee Lachie Jones – sporting a candidate for best haircut in the league with a free-flowing mullet – also impressed, but this pair might have to wait a while to get their chance at senior level.
First-year Crows duo Riley Thilthorpe and Sam Berry were quiet for the Crows and may need more time at SANFL level before they receive a senior debut, but mature small forward James Rowe (16 disposals, but an inaccurate three behinds) is one player in the mix to take on Geelong in round one.
Round one chance
Riley Bonner might be one player that Ken Hinkley is forced to select in round one, with the 51-gamer again impressing in his new midfield role against the Crows. Bonner could only manage nine appearances for the Power in 2020, but his 27-disposal, 15-mark performance on Sunday will be tough for selectors to ignore. Young Crows defender Jordon Butts did his chances of adding to his two senior games no harm with a polished performance down back against the Power, while former Lion Mitch Hinge will also be considered.
Apart from Rozee's foot surgery, Port Adelaide will be pleased to escape from the contest unscathed from an injury point of view and could even have the luxury of including Todd Marshall (cheek) and veteran Hamish Hartlett (hamstring soreness) for their season opener. The Crows' backline is already short on personnel with Tom Doedee, Daniel Talia and Jake Kelly already missing through injury and they received another scare when Butts hobbled off with an ankle problem early in the third term against the Power. Butts returned to the field with his ankle heavily strapped, but was able to play out the contest in a rare piece of good news for Matthew Nicks' inexperienced side.
Defenders have been scoring well in the AAMI Community Series but the Power backs took it to another level. Dan Houston (DEF, $697,000), Riley Bonner (DEF, $496,000) and Aliir Aliir (DEF, $422,000) combined for 45 marks and scored 154, 120 and 99 respectively. Port Adelaide scored 2017 points as a team and once again, the Crows could be a team who will give up bulk points. Lock in Rory Laird (DEF/MID, $763,000) as your top-priced defender. His transition to the midfield will see him tally plenty of points this year. Despite the Crows scoring the least amount of Fantasy points in the pre-season so far, Laird managed to score 97 in just 78 per cent time on ground thanks to his 25 disposals and 10 tackles.
ADELAIDE 0.1 1.2 3.5 6.9 (45)
PORT ADELAIDE 3.6 6.10 12.12 17.14 (116)
Adelaide: Walker 3, McAdam 2, Sholl
Port Adelaide: Fantasia 3, Wines 2, Ladhams 2, Gray 2, Georgiades 2, Rozee 2, Butters, Farrell, Mead, Houston
Adelaide: Walker, Smith, Crouch, Butts, McPherson, Laird
Port Adelaide: Aliir, Houston, Gray, Fantasia, Bonner, Rozee
Adelaide: Butts (ankle)
Port Adelaide: Nil
Crowd: TBC at Flinders University Stadium