Ken Hinkley’s men had the chance to prove themselves last week against West Coast, but were put to the sword by one of the competition’s big guns.
Tonight is the perfect platform for Port Adelaide to show the football world they mean business for the 2021 season. The same was said in the lead-up to their clash with West Coast and it was a test that they failed badly and their credibility took a serious hit.
Port was held to just two goals for the entire half while the Eagles banged on 10 of their own and the match was essentially over at the main break. A response is needed from Hinkley’s men and to build up their credentials as a flag fancy, they have to take down arguably the best team in the competition for the last four to five years in Richmond.
It will be a tall order but one that Port as shown it is capable of. In truth, they had enough of the ball in last year's preliminary final to defeat the Tigers but simply could not kick a score to beat them. Both teams are coming off losses in which their confidence would have been dented, Port more so than Richmond and the fact that the game will take place at Adelaide Oval, means Port will be feeling confident.
When Port is rolling there is not a team they cannot slay but it has been their consistency that has caused the most concern over the last few years and again has reared its ugly head already this season.
After sweeping both North Melbourne and Essendon, which they were expected to do, but when they came up against a quality team they were spanked and really shown up by a top four side.
Now Port does have a performance in them like that at least once a year and now they are forced to show their potential on the national stage, against what is a true powerhouse of the competition. Everything will have to go right for the Power to beat the Tigers but if a side can do it, it's Hinkley’s men.
Having young gun Lachie Jones making his debut on his 19th birthday will be something special and the anticipation surrounding him is unbelievable. It is possibly the hardest time to come in and play your first match, against the reigning premiers but Port clearly has enough faith in Jones that he will cope with the demands of the current champs. It could be just the circuit breaker Hinkley and his boys need after their smacking at the hands of West Coast last time out.
The Tigers are somewhat wounded heading into this one, with Dion Prestia and Kamdyn McIntosh (both injured) and with Josh Caddy and Daniel Rioli dropped. Richmond will be fielding two debutants in Rhyan Mansell and Will Martyn along with the return of star halfback Bachar Houli and Jack Ross. For Port as I mentioned above, Lachie Jones is the only inclusion at this stage with both Miles Bergman and Peter Ladhams omitted.
Having players out means nothing to the Tigers as they conquered Port Adelaide with half of their side out in round 4 of 2019 so Richmond cannot be taken for granted simply because they are missing a piece or two. Add to that they will be looking to right the wrongs of last week and all of a sudden you have a champion side with a massive point to prove against a team that is considered in their tier for this season. Richmond will want to flex their muscles.
It is shaping up as a monumental game in Port’s season. Win and your credibility as a true flag contender will be restored, lose and the knives will be out and Port will be labelled flat-track bullies. When the conversation regarding teams who can win the premiership is being discussed, the Power will not be in the mix
Even if Port succumbs to the Tigers they will still be 2-2 after four rounds, but for a game so early on in the season, it sure has a hell of a lot riding on it. Will they be able to stand up against the league’s undisputed heavyweight? Or will they crumble when the entire country is watching?
So much is at stake for Port and a win is a must, Richmond has enough credits in the bank as should they lose people’s opinion of them will not change. However for the boys from Alberton, a loss would severely dent the hype that has surrounded them so far this year.
Port Adelaide has a history of faltering when all the chips are on the table and tonight they have to put in a good performance because if they don't, my word the football world and supporters will not be kind.
Labelled as a genuine flag contender at the start of the campaign, that notion would be on wafer-thin ice should Port taste defeat. Tonight is where we find out what the 2021 Port Adelaide side is all about.