Last weekend saw the continued emergence of new, and to many, unexpected superpower in the AFL. Hawthorn and Geelong have long been held in high esteem for their ability to maintain their high quality lists and their ladder dominance, and yet it was the destruction of the latter on Sunday that heralded the arrival of a new team at the top – Port Adelaide.
The Power surprised many last season when they turned from bottom dwellers to finalists in the blink of an eye, but this was no ‘overnight success’. The long term building of Port Adelaide can be traced back to 2006, even before their humiliating 119 point Grand Final defeat to Geelong. From here onwards the recruitment team has barely placed a foot wrong in building a list which, as the season progresses, looks to have all areas very well covered.
2006-2008 saw Port draft players such as Travis Boak, Robbie Gray, Justin Westhoff, Matthew Lobbe, Hamish Hartlett and Matthew Broadbent, all of whom have been key to the massive upswing in fortunes. The drafting of last season’s breakout sensations, Chad Wingard and Ollie Wines, in a time where the drafts were hugely compromised due to the expansion clubs, both appear to be recruiting masterstrokes. Add to this the canny trades that led to Jay Schultz, Brad Ebert, Angus Monfries and Jared Polec joining the revolution, and you can see why Port Adelaide are gaining momentum.
The rise of these players has duly caused a huge increase in their relevancy in Ultimate Footy too. Before last season, there were few Port players that were on the top of many Ultimate Footy shopping lists when it came to the pre-season draft. It’s a different story now. Captain fantastic, Travis Boak, has gone from a mid-range centre, to one who is on his way to becoming elite – taking his average from 83.7 in 2012 to 100.2 last year. Brad Ebert is arguably already there. The 24 year old averaged 62.7 in his last season at West Coast, but went on to average 99.1 in 2013 and is a fantasy stud so far this year with 117.8. Kane Cornes has come back from the fantasy brink proving that age is no barrier. With 79.1 in 2011, his fantasy relevance seemed to have gone. With 106.7 last year and 112.2 so far this season, he is one of the premium fantasy midfielders in the competition.
This is the thin end of the wedge when it comes to improvements. Port’s list has shown significant improvement across the board, and add to that the blistering starts players such as Chad Wingard and Ollie Wines have made to their careers, and you have a team with huge fantasy potential. This is partly due to them having the third youngest team in the league, and partly due some significant ‘off-field’ recruiting.
The end of 2012 marked the appointments of arguably two of the biggest factors that have turned the Power’s potential into a reality. High Performance Manager, Darren Burgess, has received huge raps for the athleticism that he has injected into the club. His motto “you can run more than you think you can”, has obviously struck home with his charges, as they consistently run out games stronger than any other team. These siren to siren performances have meant that their players have been allowed to continue their intensity, and importantly for us, continue to rack up fantasy points. 2012 also saw coach Ken Hinckley appointed. The cohesive, exciting, attacking style of football that Port now play has more than a shade of Geelong, little surprise considering that Hinckley was assistant at the Cattery from 2004-2009. This fantasy friendly style of play sees them rank in the top 4 for kicks and uncontested possessions per game, and are second only to Geelong for inside 50’s and marks inside 50.
There are still many who wonder whether Port are still a flash in the pan, which can certainly work in favour of the astute Ultimate Footy coach. Due to their lower ‘brand value’, there is the distinct possibility that their players could still be traded relatively cheaply. Ebert for example, has the 5th highest average of all players to have played more than three games this year, and is scoring only 0.7pts per game less than Scott Pendlebury – more than 13pts more than the likes of Trent Cotchin or Jobe Watson. I would wager, however, that he wouldn’t been seen as valuable as any of those by many coaches.
I, for one, am willing to stick my neck out and say that Port are the real deal. With the list they’ve built, and the consistently improving performances, it’s no doubt that the future for Port Adelaide is very bright indeed. As a footy fan, I’m enjoying watching Port’s ascendancy into one of the sport’s big teams. As a fantasy coach I’m glad I stocked up on their players before the start of last season in my keeper league.
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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.