KEN HINKLEY was right.
After urging supporters not to give up on Port Adelaide’s finals hopes after an 0-5 start to the season, the club has won four consecutive matches to move just a game outside the top-eight and get its stuttering season back on track.
So, what has changed? Here are five things that have the Power on the path to September.
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The style has changed
Port Adelaide is playing slightly differently. With its season on the line at 0-5, Hinkley has opted for more conservatism and it is paying dividends. Champion Data stats note that the club has stopped using the corridor as much and is taking the game on less, instead deciding for the safety of the boundary. Corridor usage has declined from 17.4 percent (ranked seventh in the AFL) throughout the first five weeks of the year, to 13.2 percent (ranked third-last) during its four straight victories. In its place, boundary usage has risen from 50.4 percent (ranked 10th) at round five to 57.1 percent (ranked third) in the last four weeks. Port Adelaide has been more direct, though. They went long with 42.0 percent of kicks through the first five weeks (ranked 12th in the AFL), to 46.9 percent in the last four matches (ranked No.1). Importantly, the side has also got its contested game going. Port Adelaide’s contested possession differential of -9.6 ranked No.15 in the League at round five. Ever since, the club’s contested possession differential of +9.8 ranks No.4 in the AFL.
The Brownlow medallist is back
Ollie Wines is winning less of the footy, but having more of an impact. His disposal numbers have dipped from 31.6 touches per game at round five, to just 28.2 disposals per game over his last four matches. However, his influence is steadily growing. He’s now averaging 7.0 score involvements per match, up from 5.0 per game. He’s kicked four goals from four matches, up from zero goals from his first three games. Meanwhile, his contested possession rate has also increased from 34.7 percent to 49.5 percent since the Power returned to winning ways. Wines’ uptick in form has coincided with Port Adelaide relying less on the reigning Brownlow Medal winner to win the footy on the outside, and since the club has placed an added emphasis on the importance of his inside contested game.
The forward line is clicking
Port Adelaide has finally got its three-tall forward line firing on all cylinders. Todd Marshall is playing the best footy of his career and has 11 goals from his last four matches, Jeremy Finlayson is settling in at his new club and has 10 goals in that same span, while Mitch Georgiades hit form on the weekend and kicked three goals against North Melbourne in his best performance of the season to date. The Power were struggling to score throughout an 0-5 start, with Champion Data noting their goals-per-entry ranking was the worst in the competition at just 18.4 percent. That’s improved to 23.0 percent in the last four matches, all wins, putting them seventh in the League throughout that period. From desperately needing veteran Charlie Dixon back from an ankle injury, now there are question marks around whether he will still be in Port Adelaide’s best 22 when fully fit.
The fixture helps
It’s not the be-all and end-all, but Port Adelaide’s fixture has started to even itself out. In the first five weeks of the season, the club played teams that had a win rate of 70 percent at the time of their fixtures. That stretch included games against sides currently entrenched inside the top-four like Melbourne, Brisbane and Carlton. However, in the last four weeks, Port Adelaide’s opponents have had a winning percentage of just 38.4 percent at the time of their games. Included in that block of games has been clashes against the current bottom-two teams in North Melbourne and West Coast. More routine fixtures have undoubtedly brought more routine wins.
The five players to step up
In among the side’s return to form, several players have stood up and returned to their influential best. Wines perhaps epitomises this uptick in form, while Marshall has been superb in his key forward post. Connor Rozee’s midfield move, which sparked the side’s remarkable second-half comeback against Carlton, has also been important to Port Adelaide finding a new dimension from the centre. Karl Amon has responded well to being dropped ahead of the side’s clash with West Coast, only to be brought back into the side as a late inclusion. Meanwhile, fellow young midfielder Willem Drew has been crucial to the Power winning the clearance and contested battle in midfield.
Top five Power players (based on AFL Player Ratings from Rd 6-9)
16.9 – Ollie Wines (ranked No.14 in the AFL)
15.3 – Todd Marshall (ranked No.28 in the AFL)
12.7 – Connor Rozee (ranked No.66 in the AFL)
11.4 – Karl Amon (ranked No.105 in the AFL)
11.4 – Willem Drew (ranked No.106 in the AFL)