It was happening as recently as 2012. You’d turn on the TV for your team’s away game against Port Adelaide to see great big tarpaulins covering sections of the AAMI Stadium seating, in an attempt to hide the fact that the 50,000 capacity venue was less than half full. To add insult to injury, the tarps would generally be advertising some obscure local brand of meat pie, machinery hire company, or something else indecipherable to those outside South Australia.
After winning just three games in 2011, the Power finished with five wins in 2012, barely better than the two expansion clubs, perennial cellar dwellers Melbourne, and the Western Bulldogs, who lost their last 11 games of the season. The club was becoming an AFL problem-child, with financial difficulties, prominent players wanting out, and prospective coaches and administrators turning down offers on the basis that pastures were greener elsewhere.
Fast forward to March 2014 and the transformation of Port Adelaide has been nothing short of amazing. Not only are the tarpaulins gone, the club has moved its home ground to the centrally located Adelaide Oval, where over 50,000 people watched them trounce the Adelaide Crows in the inaugural game at the venue. On the back of an unprecedented journey to the second week of the finals in 2013, Power fans are back on board, and expecting big things of the club in 2014.
To an outsider, the Power seem to have made some smart appointments, starting at the top with club president David ‘Kochie’ Koch. Who would have thought that an irritating TV presenter would do a good job as a footy club president? Apologies to Eddie McGuire and James Brayshaw, who probably only qualify on the irritating TV presenter side of the equation.
The Power also got it right appointing senior coach Ken Hinkley, consigning former coach Matthew Primus to the favourite-son-coaching-disaster scrapheap. When you consider other recent favourite-son failures Brett Ratten and Michael Voss (James Hird – this should include you too), you’d think clubs sooner or later will start to steer clear of the strategy. Fingers crossed for you then, Justin Leppitsch.
After three rounds, the Power has done nothing to suggest that 2013 was a flash in the pan. Sitting 2-1 after a narrow loss to the Kangaroos in Round 3, their form has many pundits tipping them for back-to-back finals appearances. In fact, their squad is held in such high esteem that some even have them pencilled in for the top four.
They really do have a strong nucleus of extremely talented players, and their midfield in particular is worth noting as it’s as exciting as any team in the competition. Not only do they have a solid core of Hamish Hartlett, Travis Boak and Brad Ebert, it’s a great mix of old (Kane Cornes), new (Ollie Wines) and newer (Jared Polec). The recruitment of Polec shows how the wheel has turned for the Power; it wasn’t long ago that their young star players were looking elsewhere. Now it’s happened to Brisbane, and based on his first few games it looks like the Power may have been the luckiest beneficiary of the exodus of talent from the Lions.
Their midfield is so strong, it’s almost easy to forget they also have the 2013 All Australian small forward Chad Wingard. After a sublime second season, the immensely talented Wingard is one of the main reasons Power fans have replaced the tarps with bums on seats.
There is genuine feeling of hope at Port Adelaide not seen since their premiership a decade ago. But are they good enough to finish top four? For all of their potential, there is still that lingering doubt about whether such a quick resurgence is possible.
If the Power were to pull it off, there would be many doing something they’d never thought possible, and that’s complimenting their club president, Kochie, the man who not only finishes top four for annoying TV presenters, but wins the premiership by a significant margin.
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