List Breakdown by position:
|Key Def||Gen Def||Mid||Mid/Fwd||Gen Fwd||Key Fwd||Ruck||Total|
Average Age: 24.6
Players In: Tom Rockliff, Steven Motlop, Jack Watts, Jack Trengove, Trent McKenzie
Players Out: Jarman Impey, Aaron Young, Jackson Trengove, Logan Austin, Brendan Ah Chee, Matthew Lobbe
Retired/Delisted: Angus Monfries, Nathan Krakouer, Jesse Palmer, Matt White, Brett Eddy
Draft Picks: 49, 59, 62, 63, 82, 89
What They Got/Lost:
The biggest get for the season was, without doubt, the 14 wins and a return to finals footy. Port announced themselves as flag contenders in 2014 when they were only narrowly beaten by eventual Premiers Hawthorn in a Prelim Final. Two years of mediocrity left the impression that their chance may well be over, but a return of form in 2017 hints that the window is still open.
It’s not all rosy, however, as even with a 5th place finish and the second highest percentage, their results tell a different story. In their home and away 10 games against top 8 sides they only won two of them; one against an out of sorts Sydney, and one against West Coast – ironically the team that dispatched them from the finals.
In terms of personnel, Port were big movers, and big winners, at the trade table and their activity certainly points to a tilt at a flag. In Jack Watts, Tom Rockliff and Steven Motlop, they have brought in experience and talent where it’s needed – and instantly made their best 22 stronger. The fact that they got the lot for a second round Draft pick can also only be seen as a success. Trent McKenzie and Jack Trengove are certainly more speculative, but they are both senior players that can provide depth and cover, and in the case of Trengove, leadership and guidance.
Port did have to lose a few players off the list to make way for the bigger names, however. Fringe midfielder Brendan Ah Chee headed west, while they lost some speed and creativity with Jarman Impey’s move to Hawthorn. Perhaps the most significant loss will be that of height across the list, with talented tall Logan Austin heading to St Kilda, ruckman Matthew Lobbe to Carlton, and tall utility Jackson Trengove leaving as a free agent.
What They Need:
For their off-season moves to prove a success, Port have to make the 4 and have to be in flag contention. With a large portion of their best 22 heading toward the end of their careers, they have, at tops, three years you’d think to make an impact. In that time, they can’t really afford to go backwards.
Robbie Gray is certainly shaping as a key factor for 2018. The best high half forward in the comp, Gray was sadly diagnosed with testicular cancer at the end of the season. He underwent surgery and some precautionary chemo, and the Port medical team are confident that he will be back for preseason training. His health and recover are obviously the most important thing, but Port will certainly be hoping that he can be at his best by the time the season starts.
With Rockliff in the middle, it should free up Gray to spend time where he is at his most damaging – in the forward arc. It will also take the pressure off last year’s early sensation Sam Powell-Pepper, who certainly started to tire at the end of a big year.
With Wines, SPP, Ebert, Rockliff and Boak, their pressure and competitiveness in the midfield is sound, but it does look a little one-paced. Jared Polec adds a bit of run, and Motlop can add dash on the outside, but I’d expect Port to maybe look at adding a ready to go type with a bit of run and carry at the draft. They may also look for a mature bodied ruck as cover for Ryder. With Trengove and Lobbe out of the door, they are left with the developing Billy Frampton to lead the line. With the likes of Dixon, Westhoff and now Watts able to pitch in, however, this probably not be a priority.
The backline looks solid, with Hombsch and Clurey providing the height, and the likes of Broadbent, Pittard, Hartlett and Byrne-Jones providing some rebound. They have some depth here too with promising signs from Dougal Howard, Jarrod Lienert and Riley Bonner, and now Trent McKenzie.
The forward line is much the same, with Dixon leading the line alongside Westhoff and Watts, with Wingard, Gray and Motlop providing genuine goal presence. They may look to add a pressure small forward via the draft, as Jake Neade is the only one that fits this mould and he has lacked consistency at the top level.
On the Radar:
Port don’t really head into the draft with much in terms of purchasing power after some unconvincing trading last year. With only one third rounder and three fourth round picks, the cream of this year’s draft class will be off the board, but there can always be some bargains found late on, especially with some of the mature recruits – ideal for Port’s needs.
One player that looks an absolutely ideal fit is Dom Barry. The former Demon walked out of the game in 2014 after only five AFL appearances, after not being ready for the AFL environment. The 22 year old has found his home in the SANFL, however, and is ready for another crack after a superb year for Glenelg. Lightning quick, and able to break lines, he’d be the perfect ready to go player to provide Port with some much needed outside run and carry.
Another who could temp the Power late could be South Freo’s Haiden Schloithe. The 24 year old former Docker has been outstanding in the WAFL this year, averaging 28 possessions and kicking 30 goals from 22 games. He possesses a good turn of pace to burst from packs when playing through the midfield, but I think he could be a great weapon inside 50. He knows how to tackle and knows where the goals are.
If they were to go for youth, Port could take a look at SA representative Nathan Kreuger or Eastern Ranges’ Dylan Moore. Kreuger is a tall, raw, athletic talent that can operate in either arc or on the wing, and is not dissimilar to Brisbane’s Marco Paparone. He could develop well under the tutelage of someone like Justin Westhoff. Moore at 175cm is almost his complete opposite, but the tough tackling midfielder thrives at the contest, and possesses elite endurance. While long term he could play midfield, he would slot in immediately into an AFL forward line as a pressure player. It’s unlikely he will be available, however, with some tipping him as a top 30 pick.