Port Adelaide have gone through a complete rebuild of late including an overhaul of the football department which saw Ken Hinkley instated as head coach as well as many board positions – including the chairman – vacated and replaced. Having failed to make the finals since 2007 and only winning eight games total in the 2011 and 2012 seasons, the need for immediate change was necessary and new chairman David Koch set about implementing change immediately.
Even with the changing of the guard at the club, 2013 was expected to be another long year for Port supporters with a young, largely inexperienced list tipped to struggle and finish in the bottom four or five teams. Pre-season predictions from the Bound For Glory News staff had Port Adelaide finishing 14th.
The Power exceeded even the wildest expectations for them in 2013, starting the season with five consecutive wins – including outstanding victories against main rival Adelaide and a stirring come from behind win against popular top four pick West Coast provided Port with the perfect foundation from which to launch their season.
Port’s sudden revitalisation looked short lived, however, as they then lost their next five games before a steadying win against eventual wooden spooners GWS in round 12 left Port with a winning record of 6-5 at the halfway point of the season.
With a tough second half of the season still to come Port appeared to be underdogs to finish in the top eight for the first time in six years but successive wins against reigning premiers Sydney and powerhouse Collingwood proved that the club had the ability to make it to September action.
A group of good wins in close games – which the Power might have folded in and lost in recent years gone by – against St Kilda, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Adelaide which assured the club would return to playing finals football had the Port Adelaide faithful singing the praises of new high performance manager Darren Burgess, Ken Hinkley, David Koch and the entire playing group – in particular young star Chad Wingard.
Finishing seventh meant Port Adelaide had set up a mouthwatering clash with Collingwood – a game which nobody would have thought Port could be playing in just 12 months prior.
Once again against the odds Port stood up and defeated the much-fancied Collingwood by four goals on football’s main stage – a Saturday night elimination final at the MCG.
Despite the season coming to an end the following week in a gallant defeat at the hands of Geelong, Port Adelaide will be able to look back on the 2013 season as a rousing success which has set the club up for a push towards the top four in the near future.
Chad Wingard – The 20-year-old drafted number six pick overall in the 2011 draft established himself as a bona fide star of the competition. The half-forward flanker/midfielder with scintillating speed and a great skill set averaged 21.2 disposals, 4.3 marks, 1.8 goals and 4.4 inside 50s per game, and was the catalyst for many of the victories which set the tone for Port’s season, earning himself selection in the 2013 All-Australian team.
Travis Boak – Having knocked back Victorian clubs who came knocking and re-signing with Port Adelaide, Boak was rewarded with the captaincy and set about proving himself as worthy to lead the club forward. Boak maintained career-best from throughout the season becoming the key cog in keeping the Port Adelaide midfield ticking. Boak also saw his phenomenal season rewarded with a spot in the All-Australian side.
Ken Hinkley – The first-time head coach and the first Port Adelaide coach without any prior association with the club since 1950 performed admirably in 2013. He was bold and willing to try new things rather than stick to a safe formula which paid big dividends for Port. He was comfortably the best coach of 2013 and looks as though he could occupy the helm at Port for a long time to come.
Fitness – The appointment of Darren Burgess proved to be as key as any for Port Adelaide. Burgess, who had spent the previous two years as the head of fitness and conditioning at Liverpool in the English Premier League, was able to make the Port Adelaide group the fittest in the AFL over the course of just one pre-season and will look to increase their fitness again for next season. The fitness of the team proved key in most of the club’s victories where they were able to run away with the game in the final quarter.
Early season lapse – From rounds six to 10, Port’s form dropped off dramatically. They came up against four top 10 teams in Richmond, North Melbourne, Carlton and Geelong and looked a shadow of the team which performed so brilliantly in the opening five rounds. That the playing group can drop off against quality opposition – which was shown again with lacklustre late-season performances against eventual Grand Finalists Hawthorn and Fremantle – will concern Hinkley, but he will be confident the team will be able to take a big scalp or two in 2014.
Key signings and departures:
Jared Polec – The number five draft pick in 2010 expressed his desire to return home to South Australia early in the trade period and Port quickly emerged as favourites to sign the gifted 21-year-old. Polec joined Port Adelaide via a three way trade with Brisbane and GWS which saw Port give up picks 14 and 34 in return for Polec, pick 21 and pick 45. Polec is yet to reach his full potential which saw him selected so early but the Power are confident he will prove to be more than serviceable for the club.
Matt White – 26-year-old midfielder Matt White joined Port Adelaide as a free agent on a three year deal. White, a speedster, played 16 games for Richmond who finished fifth in 2013.
Alan Richardson – Having filled the position of director of coaching and strategy for just one season, Richardson was successful in his application for the position of St Kilda’s head coach. Port are yet to find a replacement for Richardson’s position.
Port Adelaide delisted Nathan Blee, Danny Butcher, Justin Hoskin, Darren Pfeiffer, Brent Renouf, Nick Salter and Daniel Stewart, and Matt Thomas and Brett Ebert retired.
Pick 21 – Jarman Impey: In Impey, Port Adelaide add a small forward who will be able to run through the midfield once his endurance improves. Impey has shown great decision making under pressure, top shelf disposal by foot and a goal awareness found in the best small forwards. Burgess will be able to improve his fitness in no time at all and his inconsistency is a mental issue which Port will put plenty of effort into fixing. Read more about Jarman Impey here.
Pick 45 – Mitchell Harvey: South Australian Mitchell Harvey’s agility is excellent for a 195 cm key forward and will hold him in good stead. Gifted with a great build, Harvey has plenty of bulking up to do before he’s considered to make his debut for Port. Read more about Mitchell Harvey here.
Pick 52 – Darcy Byrne-Jones: A half-back flanker, Byrne-Jones’ poise and ability to win the ball is first-rate. He is let down by his speed, however, raising concerns over his ability to run and carry the ball off the half-back line. Red more about Darcy Byrne-Jones here.
Pick 68 – Karl Amon: A flashy speedster, Amon will add a touch of the x-factor to the Port Adelaide midfield. One of those players who can turn a game on his head with just a handful disposals, Amon will leave many opposition coaches scratching their heads if he can fulfil his potential. Read more about Karl Amon here.
Overall grade: A+
A truly remarkable season for Port Adelaide. In addition to all the on-field success Port surpassed 40,000 members for the first time in their history. It’s amazing the difference 12 months can make in this game, as this time last year Port were being labelled a basket case, but now the future looks bright with a relatively young group and Ken Hinkley and David Koch at the helm of the club. Factor in the club playing home games in the newly renovated Adelaide Oval from 2014 and this is one of the most exciting times in Port Adelaide’s history.