Ken Hinkley has shown a fondness to give youth a chance this season and his young brigade has repaid the faith.
It is no secret that Port Adelaide has strength in depth, but for the most part when there has been injuries, Ken Hinkley has turned to his younger players and given them a shot in the AFL side. All have deserved this shot at the big time and all have taken it with both hands.
Establishing yourself in a side that is not only challenging for a top-four position but also a premiership is a tall order, but for these youngsters, they have taken to it like a duck to water. So let’s have a look at how they have fared so far this season.
The 14th pick in the 2019 draft had an interrupted start to his AFL journey and when he was ready, COVID hit last year and we were forced to wait. Now that he has gotten his chance in the side, you can see why he was taken so high in the draft.
Averaging 13 disposals in his six games so far, Bergman has largely been lined up at halfback with his agility, marking ability, and foot skills a feature. At only 19, Miles already looks at home as his performances for the most part have been assured.
Taken in the same draft as Bergman, “King George” has set the AFL alight. Despite missing the last year of his junior football through a horrible quad injury, he slipped under the radar of most scouts.
In his six games so far, Mitch has booted 12 goals which included four against Essendon in round 2, and has proven to be a human highlight reel at times with his high-flying. Mitch has forced himself into Port’s best 22 this season and like Bergman, is just 19, and how he can dictate games shows that when Charlie Dixon does call time, Mitch will be more than ready to step into those shoes.
Perhaps the forgotten player in Port Adelaide’s long list of young guns but I have always had a soft spot for Drew. Taken in the 2016 draft, he is older than the others (22 years old) but those extra few years have shown out.
The big-bodied midfielder has acquitted himself well at the AFL level and this year in particular. His ability to play inside and on the outside in the midfield make him a valuable player for Ken Hinkley. He was on the rise last season before a foot injury halted his progress, but Drew is a player that will be around for a long time. Port’s lack of speed in the midfield group has potentially stopped him from playing more but so far this season he is getting his chance and averaging 19 touches a game.
His game against Brisbane was a highlight for him as he and Ollie Wines seemed to be the only ones up for the fight. His 32 disposal, 1 goal game was his best to date. I like everything about Drew however once Travis Boak is fit again, he will most likely make way with Hinkley preferring Sam Powell-Pepper.
The moustache and mullet are an absolute thing of beauty and the young defender has the football skills to go with it. He looks like your typical Port Adelaide player, goes at the ball, strong, and is not afraid of throwing his weight around.
His debut against Richmond was one of the best debuts you will see. Averaging 17 disposals in his two games before his injury, Jones will be a mainstay in Port’s backline for the next decade. The fact he played against men last year in the SANFL on his way to winning the 2020 premiership with Woodville-West Torrens has him ready to tackle senior football already. An absolute brute of a man and at just 19, he will be a monster in the years to come.
His run and carry are a feature, along with his lightning pace make Marty “must watch” when Port Adelaide plays. He will most likely find himself out of the side when Port gets fully fit, but in the meantime, he is taking his opportunity well and forcing Ken to re-think his defensive setup.
The 21-year-old was taken in that famed draft that included Connor Rozee, Zak Butters, and Xavier Duursma. The small forward was rewarded with some decent SANFL form this season when both Butters and Duursma went down with injuries in round four and what thrust into the side for the last three weeks.
Averaging 15 disposals and kicking two goals this season, Woodcock’s role as a small forward is tough, given how Port Adelaide played against Brisbane. He has shown enough since his debut last season that he can make a name for himself in the AFL side.
The 22-year-old key forward divide’s opinion among the Port faithful as he has largely been inconsistent since his debut. His talent is evident, but we do not see it enough. In his five games this year Marshall has booted six goals and he has proved to be a decent option for Port up forward instead of relying on Charlie Dixon.
If he can find some consistency in his game he could prove to be a dominant player in the competition. His match against Brisbane highlights the gap between his good and bad games.
Port has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to their young talent and this is not even mentioning players like Rozee, Butters, Duursma, Jarrod Lienert, Ollie Lord, Trent Burgoyne, Taj Schofield, Joel Garner, Dylan Williams and ruckman Sam Hayes.
Port has a gluttonous amount of young talent at the club and the biggest question is whether they can keep them all happy as 30 players do not fit in 22 so some may seek opportunities elsewhere. Make no mistake about it though, Port Adelaide is well set up for the future.