Port players after the loss to Essendon on Friday night. Picture: SARAH REED
Port players after the loss to Essendon on Friday night. Picture: SARAH REED

Power damned by a loss of faith

WHAT a waste. There are reasons for Port Adelaide's capitulation in the second half of the 2018 season but there are no excuses.

An opportunity missed is and opportunity lost. In Ken Hinkley's own words: "Us as a football department have let the football club down."

The truth hurts. After 15 games of 2018 the Power sat fourth on the ladder with 11 wins and just 4 losses - the same number of wins as Collingwood in second place and West Coast in third.

Richmond was a game clear on top of the ladder with 12 wins and three losses.

A top-four finish was there for the taking. The Power needed just two wins from its last seven games to cement a place in the finals. It failed.

Port's season unravelled on Sunday, July 15, against Fremantle In Perth. It never recovered.

The Dockers restricted the Power to just 39 inside 50s and beat Port by kicking just eight goals.

The Power's fragile game style would be exposed to all and a template written on how to defeat them.

From that moment, most opponents did.

Port Adelaide’s Paddy Ryder walks off after the loss to Essendon on Friday night. Picture: Sarah Reed
Port Adelaide’s Paddy Ryder walks off after the loss to Essendon on Friday night. Picture: Sarah Reed

 

The following week, the Power again failed to break the 60-point barrier and lost to Greater Western Sydney.

Port would recover to beat an out-of-sorts Western Bulldogs, but still only managed to kick 11 goals.

The Crows would beat them in a Showdown nailbiter the following week and their hearts appeared broken.

Inside 50s would again be their downfall - just 47 to the Crows' whopping 69.

With three rounds remaining they were still separated from fourth spot by percentage. Finals were just one more win away.

Even that would prove to be a bridge too far.

The Power would fail to kick 60 points and lose to the West Coast at home on the last kick of the day.

The following week they would break the 60-point barrier but suffer annihilation by Collingwood at the MCG before losing to Essendon at Adelaide Oval in their final game of the year on Friday night.

It wasn't pretty, no matter how you looked at it.

The glaring, almost unbelievable, omission all season was young gun Billy Frampton. Ignored all season as Patty Ryder limped around the park, he was finally unveiled against Essendon and did not disappoint.

Four contested marks, 15 hit-outs and three shots on goal was more than enough to suggest the kid can play.

The reluctance to unveil him may be justified in the selectors' minds, but to not even attempt it cannot be defended.

Port Adelaide's biggest failure in 2018 was its lack of faith.

Lack of faith in individuals, in each other and, ultimately, lack of faith in the game plan.

Port Adelaide’s Travis Boak, Robbie Gray and Ollie Wines after Friday’s loss to Essendon. Picture: Sarah Reed
Port Adelaide’s Travis Boak, Robbie Gray and Ollie Wines after Friday’s loss to Essendon. Picture: Sarah Reed

In Ken they trust - but it's a two-way street.

So what now? Show renewed faith in this current group and give them one more shot or slash and burn and rebuild for another campaign in three years' time?

Either way it will almost certainly be without Jared Polec.

Offers rumoured to nudge $3.5 million for five years are hard to ignore.

To North Melbourne he will go.

It will be a loss not easily covered. Polec carries the ball. He links defence to attack. He was an ever-present piece of the puzzle.

There is no obvious replacement. Stevie Motlop is one, but his carry is often sideways and indecisive.

Polec's mind is clear and his movement predictable.

None at the Power kicked the ball more, yet he still used it at an impressive 70 per cent disposal efficiency.

He ranked No. 1 at Port for uncontested ball, a very credible sixth for contested possessions and second in total possessions, just 20 touches behind Ollie Wines.

He also ranked second for inside 50s and second for goal assists. He will be impossible to replace in the short term.

Port will also be without much of its current coaching panel, with Aaron Greaves, Matthew Nicks and now Brendon Lade all departing.

It is the moment of truth for the Port Adelaide Football Club. For David Koch and his board. For Ken Hinkley and for this very impressive mix of players.

Sometimes you have to go back to go forward.

Adelaide has suffered a similar fate in 2018, but both must bounce back strongly in 2019 or the ramifications will be much greater.