FROM the moment Western Bulldog Bailey Smith kicked a goal in the first 40 seconds of last year's preliminary final, the Port Adelaide train has run off the tracks.

The Bulldogs wiped Port by 71 points at Adelaide Oval that night, and after six months of soul-searching, the Power have started the 2022 campaign with a competitive loss to Brisbane and another horror show against Hawthorn.

After two seasons of finishing in the top two and losing at the penultimate hurdle, it's been a stark fall from grace for Ken Hinkley's men.

It's what makes Friday night's Showdown against Adelaide that much more intriguing.

What's changed in the past three matches to take Port from Grand Final aspirants to 0-2 battlers?

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Statistics provided by Champion Data paint a grim picture – one that has many holes to repair before they can be considered in the AFL's upper echelon again.

The Power's ability to score from turnovers they've created and the ability to defend their own turnovers have both been a huge problem.

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Port has scored just 33.5 points a game from turnovers the past fortnight, which ranks them last in the competition, and almost three goals a game down from the 50.8 points they generated in 2021.

Conversely, they have conceded a whopping 58.5 points a game from turnover through two rounds, which ranks them 15th, and again almost three goals worse off than in 2021 (42.3 points a game).

This problem reared its head in that prelim against the Dogs, who cashed in with 87 points scored when they won back possession.

Western Bulldog Bailey Williams and Port Adelaide's Zak Butters during the 2021 preliminary final. Picture: AFL Photos

Port has started its season with some important personnel changes to its stable outfit from previous years, most notably missing Therabody AFL All-Australian Aliir Aliir from the defensive end and primary target Charlie Dixon from attack.

Forwards Orazio Fantasia and Robbie Gray, and defender Tom Clurey are also sidelined.

But losing the turnover differential by 25 points a game, to rank 17th, is a far cry from the plus-eight Port Adelaide recorded in 2021.

The importance of this statistic cannot be overstated. Nine of the past 10 AFL premiers have ranked within the competition's top six in this category in their flag seasons.

And while Aliir and Dixon are key pillars missing at either end, what might be of equal concern to Hinkley, particularly against the Hawks, has been the opposition's ease of ball movement.

Aliir Aliir and Charlie Dixon after Port Adelaide's 2021 preliminary final loss to the Western Bulldogs. Picture: Getty Images

The 55 points Hawthorn scored from chains that started in their defensive 50 is the most by any team since Sydney scored 57 against Richmond in round 23, 2016.

It's also the second most that Port has conceded on record.

Last Saturday night, Hawthorn scored four goals directly from its own kick-ins. Port Adelaide conceded just six goals in that fashion across the entire 2021 season, which was the fewest of any team in the competition.

Whether it's purely poor forward-half pressure, or poor delivery to the wrong areas causing turnovers, Hinkley and his men must find an answer quickly.

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The work around stoppages is a little less concerning, with the points conceded from that area only slightly above their 2021 average.

The final issue which needs addressing, and certainly not the least important by any stretch, is their accuracy at goal.

This year, Port have recorded a shot at goal accuracy of 35.4 percent to rank last in the competition, and the worst of any side since this stat was first recorded in 2002.   

The only team to finish below 40 percent for an entire year was Gold Coast in 2018 (39.4).

Between turnover differential, forward-half defensive pressure and goal accuracy, Port has a lot to sort out, and playing their arch rivals is as good a place to start as any.