Port Adelaide host Melbourne tomorrow night in a gigantic clash at Adelaide Oval. The match has huge ramifications for the top four heading into the finals.
Melbourne currently sits joint-top of the AFL ladder along with the Western Bulldogs while Port Adelaide is part of the chasing pack.
Sitting inside the top four at the time of writing, albeit only on percentage, Thursday night’s clash presents an incredible opportunity for Ken Hinkley’s men.
Being a home, the Power will have the upper hand with a full house allowed at Adelaide Oval, it could be an intimidating place for the Dees.
During his press conference this morning, Power coach Ken Hinkley set the fanbase into raptures by stating that Zak Butters will be making his long-awaited return to the AFL side. This despite only having one SANFL game under his belt.
“Zak Butters will be back in the team. We just needed to see him play,” Hinkley said to the media.
"Zak is an AFL player every day of the week. We needed to give him a run to allow to feel like he is capable of doing what he needs to do. We were really pleased with what he was able to do.”
The inclusion of the young superstar will no doubt give Port the added boost it need's as they look to improve on their horror record against the top teams in the competition.
The addition of defender Tom Clurey to the backline will also prove decisive as reports coming through are stating that key forward Ben Brown is in line to come into the Melbourne side for the top four clash.
With Kane Farrell (ACL) and Riley Bonner (omitted) out and with Butters and Clurey in, Port suddenly get that little bit extra around the ball.
There is a potential top-two spot available should Port take the points and it then brings into focus their premiership aspirations. At this stage, Port Adelaide is seen as a top eight side yet many journalists do not have them as one of the contenders.
A win over Melbourne would certainly change that narrative and with the cavalry slowly returning for Port with Xavier Duursma in line to return to the SANFL either this week or next, the side is gaining strength.
Just having Butters in alone gives Port Adelaide that little extra something. His ability in traffic is exquisite along with his goal sense, Port certainly looks more dynamic in the forward half.
Thursday night’s game is a huge opportunity for Port Adelaide. With a win it would great a nice little buffer from the teams below them, depending on the results over the weekend.
But it certainly would put some pressure on Geelong, Sydney, and West Coast to continue their winning ways along with the Western Bulldogs.
There could potentially be five teams all locked in joint-first place come the end of the round, only separated by percentage.
When chances like this are presented to Port Adelaide in the past, it has not taken full advantage and it will have everything going its way on Thursday.
At home, nearly a full crowd and players returning, it is all lining up for Hinkley’s side. They just have to go out and get the four points, something that is easier said than done given the quality Melbourne possesses.
The time has come for Port Adelaide to stand up and show the football world that it is indeed the real deal when it comes to premiership chances.
Lose and the critics will come calling and surely Port Adelaide’s credibility will take a huge hit. Port simply has to win, one way or another, come Thursday night, four points is a must.