Port Adelaide were a football club in crisis, suffering two successive senior coaching disasters with the reappointment of Mark Williams and the hiring of Matthew Primus.
Talented, though not always motivated players in Danyle Pearce, David Rodan, Ben Jacobs and Troy Chaplin found welcoming homes at other clubs in 2013, compounding the loss of Dean Brogan, Chad Cornes, Nick Salter and Daniel Motlop at the end of the 2011 season.
Port Adelaide were without a major sponsor, and had a ground covered in tarpaulins in an effort to make money from a stadium deal at AAMI that saw them behind the eight-ball financially.
The club spent the majority of 2012 wondering who the coach was going to be and if a marquee player in Travis Boak would be lost to the clutch of the Cats. Their list was crippled by injuries and they struggled to be competitive in matches, with the only real memorable performance a drubbing of Carlton.
Fast-forward to 2013 and the Power have become switched on. The turn-around began with the masterful appointment of David Koch as Chairman, who was no doubt instrumental with the signing of Renault as a major sponsor.
Ken Hinkley, who has an array of experience having seen significant success as an assistant coach with Geelong during their premiership years and served as an assistant to the newly formed Gold Coast Suns, was appointed as senior coach.
Hinkley’s support staff was bolstered with the appointment of Alan Richardson as the director of coaching and strategy. Richardson, also entering with experience, served as development manager at Collingwood and as an assistant coach at Essendon. Essential to the health of the list was the reappointment of Darren Burgess as high performance manager, after a successful stint with Liverpool in the Premier League.
Travis Boak not only re-signed with the Power, he was named as captain in the 2013 season. Angus Monfries arrived from the Bombers, as well as a raft of talented young players snatched in the draft. Some of these draftees have already made an immediate impact, with Oliver Wines being awarded the NAB Rising Star performance of round one.
The greatest loss that Port Adelaide suffered last year was that of young player John McCarthy. His death had a devastating impact on both Power and Pies players, with Collingwood overcoming tremendous odds last year to win a final’s match after his death. Port Adelaide’s round two match against Greater Western Sydney has been named the John McCarthy memorial match. After a crushing defeat of Melbourne in round one, Port Adelaide will have added emotional impetus to propel them through Saturday night’s clash.
Losing a friend is devastating, but it serves the purpose of making you question your own life, and can motivate you in a way that nothing else can. The Power are a group that has been galvanised by the tragic loss of McCarthy, and they will have a chance to do what he loved, and what they love against GWS – play football.
GWS only managed two victories in their inaugural season, and one of those was against Port Adelaide. So while the Giants will enter this match with hopes of repeating their 34-point win in 2012, they will be facing a very different opposition.
Ken Hinkley has set uncompromising standards at Port Adelaide, demanding defensive efforts and pressures from his players. In both the practice match against Sydney and the round one match against Melbourne, it is clear that these standards have become the norm at the Power. The expertise of Darren Burgess is apparent in the increased muscular bodies and greater endurance shown by the list in running out games.
In a shock to many around the country, Port Adelaide currently sit atop the AFL Ladder with an unassailably high percentage. If the team plays with the passion and commitment they have shown so far this year, not only will the Power earn the four points against GWS but they will stay on top of the ladder for another week and set up an absolutely cracking showdown with Adelaide in round three.
Port Adelaide have risen to the challenge in the 2013 AFL Season, the only lingering question that remains now is will their fans heed the call? All but one of the tarpaulins that is locked in by a sponsorship deal, will be removed. Anything less than 20,000 people at AAMI Stadium on a Saturday night will be an indictment on those who call themselves passionate supporters of a club that is doing everything right to rebuild.