Last year: 10-12, 10th
Best and Fairest: Kane Cornes
Leading goal kicker: Jay Shulz (33)
Key additions: Simon Phillips (Gold Coast), Ben Jacobs (pick 16), Ben Newton (35), Aaron Young (36)
Key losses: Warren Tredrea, Nathan Krakouer, Josh Carr, Scott Harding, Cameron Cloke, Jay Nash, Wade Thompson
“Like every team we do want to make the finals … but we’ve got to look at our bigger picture. Some 85 per cent of our group are aged 18-25 years old and we’ve got to get some games into them and make sure we can manage them through the season. If we can get those guys on the park and playing together week in and week out we’ll be in pretty good shape for the years to come. We do want to make the finals and we won’t hide from that fact, but we also have to look at what the future is for the club and make sure we manage that pretty well too.”
-Coach Matthew Primus on developing his list
Matthew Primus’ stint as caretaker coach at Port saw plenty of development for young kids, some surprising wins and a restored sense of confidence around the club. A lengthy losing streak was snapped by five wins from the club’s final six games.
Now, with the full-time position his, it’s up to Primus to ensure that continues into 2011. But can Port really pick up where it left off?
With guys like Jackson Trengove, Cameron Hitchcock, Daniel Stewart, Mitch Banner and Andrew Moore all impressing in their debut seasons last year, it’s fair to say there’s a bit for the new coach to work with.
On top of that, even the guys who’ve been playing a bit longer – Travis Boak, Robbie Gray, Hamish Hartlett, Justin Westhoff, Paul Stewart – seem to have improvement ahead of them.
Throw in a draft class that forward Brett Ebert says represents “the best draft we’ve had” since 2006 and, well, it’s easy to feel positive about Port’s direction.
So in a nutshell, yes, expect more of what you saw at the end of last year.
It may not translate to a meteoric rise up the ladder – youth can only take you so far – but that positive vibe coming out of Alberton at the end of last year should stick around for a while.
One of the great assets Port have is two solid and consistent key defenders in Troy Chaplin and Alipate Carlile. Depth down back may be a concern, however, with Jacob Surjan again on the injury list and the career of Chad Cornes seemingly at a crossroads.
In the midfield, Dom Cassisi ranked second in the league for tackles last year to go with his 22 possessions a game. Kane Cornes was outstanding yet again. It’s the youth, however, that provides the most reason for excitement – and most reason for concern.
Boak continued his superb development last year with a top-ten Brownlow finish. Gray and Hartlett, meanwhile, managed just 15 games between them. If all three can get on the park, Port’s midfield will have a very promising look about it and improvement can be guaranteed.
Yet injuries are never far away from this trio, which means it’s hard to be sure we’ll see all three on the park for all that long. We shall see.
Dean Brogan looks like going on another year in the ruck, but support is coming along slowly. The Westhoff experiment last year was met with mixed results, while the alternatives seem a while off yet.
Up forward, Jay Shulz was a surprise success story in his first season away from Richmond, booting an accurate 33.15 to lead the club in goal kicking. Second on the goal kicking tally was Brett Ebert with 30, a sign of Port’s healthy mix of tall and small talent up forward.
Hitchcock’s 20 goals from 17 games, meanwhile, was an impressive return for a first-year player.
Port don’t seem capable of pushing for September action, but expect to see plenty of young talent and more surprising wins. If Gray and Hartlett stick around and have big years, expect the Power to cause a few upsets and make some sort of move up the ladder.
Premiership: $126 (=15th)
Make top eight: $5.50
Wooden spoon: $6
Value bet: Travis Boak to get most Brownlow votes at Port – $3.40 at Centrebet
Round 1: v Collingwood, Etihad, Fox
Round 2: v West Coast Eagles, AAMI, Fox
Round 3: v Geelong, Skilled, Seven
Round 4: v Adelaide, AAMI, Fox
Round 5: v Gold Coast Suns, AAMI, Fox
Michael DiFabrizio is a journalism student at the University of Wollongong. As an AFL writer, he has been an expert columnist at The Roar since 2009 and has appeared in The Age and on ABC television and radio.