Currently sitting fifth on the ladder, Ken Hinkley's men are 1-3 against top eight teams in 2021 leaving many to doubt their premiership credentials.
There is a lot of doom and gloom surrounding Alberton after Port Adelaide’s 19-point loss to the Western Bulldogs on Saturday night. Many fans have made their feelings known regarding certain players as well as Ken Hinkley (asking him to be sacked) and do not see how Port can challenge for the premiership in 2021.
So where exactly do Port Adelaide stand in the premiership conversation? At the time of writing, it is hard to put them at the pointy end with the Western Bulldogs, Melbourne but they are in the next bracket with Geelong, Brisbane, and Richmond.
The injuries are starting to mount up for Ken Hinkley as Zak Butters, Xavier Duursma, Dan Houston (back this week), and having Scott Lycett suspended for the next three games certainly does dent Port’s aura of strength.
Now every side deals with injuries, just look at the Tigers so using injuries for Port Adelaide’s failures against the top sides is a no-go for me. Every side has to deal with players being in and out of the side at some point during a season and this time it is Port’s turn.
Are they good enough to go toe to toe with the big guns? Absolutely as they have beaten Richmond and with only a few minutes remaining on Saturday night, were eight points down to what many regard as the best in the competition. Context is important when talking about the premiership favourites, but the harsh reality is that because of how badly they were beaten up by West Coast and Brisbane, many do not see them as a serious challenger to Richmond’s throne.
Had the Eagles and Lions matches gone similar to the Bulldogs on Saturday night and there was only a couple of kicks in it, then the narrative of this conversation would be different. However the fact that they got blown away by two top-quality sides that were considered to be on Port Adelaide’s level. How they were defeated is what sticks in the mind of the media as they were bullied from the outset and when you label yourself as a premiership fancy that cannot happen.
Small losses against good sides are somewhat acceptable (no loss is ever really acceptable) because you show that you can hang in with the best and your game style holds up. Port more than held their own against Richmond and for the most part against the Bulldogs (first quarter aside) but then let themselves down badly in their two games against the Eagles and Lions.
The focus remains that Port is 1-3 against top eight sides and the win over Richmond seems to be forgotten about as the weeks go on. Have injuries played their part? To an extent, yes but there is no hiding Port Adelaide’s shortcomings against the better sides.
Does it mean they are not as good as people thought? Potentially yes.
Fans have said "wait until we get these players back and we will be right" however I have a different line of thinking. We can learn more about Ken Hinkley’s side with these players out. Who is going to take the place of the injured players with both hands and force Hinkley into a decision when these players return?
Peter Ladhams has shown he is more than capable of doing the ruck duties solo, Kane Farrell did not set the world alight, Lachie Jones, Miles Bergman, and Marty Frederick have shown enough to suggest they can be trusted when called upon, but they are young and against the seasoned bodies of league footballers are where the finer margins can be seen.
It is not panic stations as of yet. It is just nine rounds into a 23 game season. Port Adelaide sits fifth and is only percentage out of third, so it is all doom and gloom yet. Port’s next five games against Collingwood, Fremantle, Geelong, Gold Coast, and Sydney, four of which they should be winning could have them at 10-4 and most likely in or around the top four.
All is not lost Port fans, there is plenty of football still to be played out this year so don’t jump off the ship just yet as they are still in the conversation when it comes to premiership contenders, albeit by the skin of their teeth.