A dominant victory over St Kilda has seen Port Adelaide keep its finals hopes alive, but is Port a genuine contender to make the eight or only a mathematical chance?
Losses for Adelaide (ninth), GWS (10th) and Collingwood (11th) have given Port extra hope, and means they sit only a game and a half outside of the eight.
The battle for finals is so tight that Port are unable to falter at any point over the next five rounds, but their draw means that it is a huge ask.
A confident performance over a struggling St Kilda side could be the kickstart they need as they face a fifth-placed Bulldogs side bound for finals and a young Giants side feeling the effects of a long season.
A Friday night blockbuster in Melbourne against premiership favourites Hawthorn in round 21 is a considerable ask for even some of the best sides of the competition this year.
A game against Gold Coast, despite proving more than competitive against West Coast on Saturday, is one they should still be expected to win. The season culminates in what could be their toughest match, as they face top of the ladder Fremantle.
There is limited room for error, and considering Port’s inconsistency across the season, it makes it difficult to see them as a genuine finals contender.
A loss to the Western Bulldogs will all but end their season, and the Dogs have shown that despite their youth they are hungry and willing during an unexpected rise that has drawn comparisons to Port Adelaide of 2013.
The positive for Port is that they were victorious when the two last met back in round 10 at Adelaide Oval. Repeating it against a side playing some of the most exciting and threatening football in the competition is another story though.
The Giants young brigade have been hampered by injuries to key players and a lack of pre seasons lately, but they were competitive in Sunday’s loss to Fremantle, and weren’t disgraced as they fell to Geelong two weeks ago.
If Port is able to take a run of wins into this game, they will be expected to win.
Hawthorn in Melbourne may be too much to ask, but they must be able to take the four points from either this or the Fremantle game to have any hope of finals.
Hawthorn showed that they aren’t unbeatable as they fell to Richmond, but convincing wins against Fremantle and Sydney in the weeks prior illustrates how dangerous they are.
Gold Coast pushed West Coast to the first draw of the season, and could be considered somewhat unlucky to have not pulled off the upset of the season and win, but without Gary Ablett jnr it’s doubtful they’ll be able to maintain that form.
If Port Adelaide are unable to defeat them, without even considering the impact it would have on the ladder, they don’t deserve to make finals.
By round 23, it’s not unlikely that Port’s top eight aspirations will be finished, and certainly anything more than a single loss will rule them out. If they’re still in the running though, they’ll have to get past Fremantle.
Fremantle haven’t been able to replicate the outstanding displays of the first half of the season, and remained relatively unconvincing despite a 6-2 record since round 10. But if Fremantle turn up to Adelaide Oval with a full strength side, and potentially most importantly, a fully fit Nat Fyfe, it may be the nail in the coffin.
No matter what happens in round 23, it appears that finals may be just out of the reach of Port Adelaide.