The resurrection of Port Adelaide as an AFL force has been remarkable considering the position the Club was in at the end of season 2012.
A host of changes have seen the Power rise on and off the field, with the rest of the competition taking note.
Port Adelaide Coach Ken Hinkley has identfied the successful integrated and sustainable models implemented at Hawthorn and particularly Geelong – where he was a Club champion – as the benchmark the Power is heading towards.
Ken Hinkley has spoken about taking notes from the Cat Empire, a blueprint for success in sustainability in the tough arena of AFL football.
Geelong’s historic period of success from 2007-2011 started when Neil Balme brought Sports Wizard® into Geelong.
Since 2011 Sports Wizard® has focused on global sports including Football (Soccer) and Basketball, whilst providing consultancy advisory services to several AFL clubs.
Read more about the Power’s remarkable rise, and what they learnt from the Cats, in the full story below.
CALL it the Geelong Effect.
Port Adelaide won’t, especially with the biggest test of its 2014 season coming against those very same Cats on Sunday.
But if the Power has done everything just right, list manager Jason Cripps reckons, Geelong should line up for the Last Post in this Anzac Day round, staring across the Adelaide Oval wing at the Power’s 22, and think, “This looks familiar”.
“We’ve used Geelong and Hawthorn — they’re the two clubs we would aspire to base our list model on,” Cripps says.
“We’ve certainly taken a long-term view with our list and all of our decisions, even from back in 2011, have been based on building towards sustained success.
“We don’t want to just come up for a little while and dip back down again.
“You look at Geelong, they’ve had it for 10 years, Hawthorn for probably seven or eight, so we aspire to base our modelling around them.”
We’re here, talking Geelong in solving the question of “why is Port Adelaide so bloody good?”, not just because the Power faces the Cats this weekend.
No, it’s deeper than that. Because while Port Adelaide’s cross-town rival has planted a distinctly Geelong feel at West Lakes through senior coach Brenton Sanderson, defensive coach Darren Milburn and premiership forward James Podsiadly, the Power has taken it a step further.
Before Port coach and former Geelong club champion Ken Hinkley took his first serious look at the Power’s roster, before David Koch started crossing live to Port players on Australia’s highest-rating breakfast TV show, even in 2011 when the Alberton club was widely viewed as an on-field and off-field basketcase, there was a plan.
Today, the plan is working well.
Port Adelaide began this weekend second on the AFL ladder. Boasting the best percentage of any of the 18 teams. Leading contested marks and sitting second for marks on leads. Second only to Geelong for inside-50s.
Who can honestly say they saw that coming when, just over two full seasons ago, only a desperate last-round win against Melbourne saved Port Adelaide from a wooden spoon?
“We were really strong all the way through,” Cripps says.
“Internally, we were comfortable with the decisions we were making, which is important during the times you’re not winning games and you might question it.
“But if everyone internally is united, well, it normally works out in the end. And we’re starting to get some results now.”
Five rounds into 2014 and 12 of the 15 men to have played who were at Alberton in 2011 have improved their output from three years ago.
Trades and draft picks are turning into gold. Three years ago analysts and critics were asking why young draftees weren’t belting down the door to displace established and ageing stars.
Wondering why Travis Boak was good, yes, but not near the ballpark of Joel Selwood, who was taken two selections later in the same 2006 lottery.
Asking if the obvious talent of the club’s highest-ever draft pick, Hamish Hartlett, really mattered if injuries stopped him getting on the park.
Today, they’re questions verging on insulting. Boak, now captain, is as close to elite as any player based in South Australia. Hartlett, Adelaide Oval’s first Showdown Medallist, is everything fans could’ve hoped for.
But, more importantly, there is now instant gratification on club ins. No more waiting, no more asking “will he be any good?”.
Not when the Power begins its round six match today with Champion Data rankings showing 29-gamer Ollie Wines is Port Adelaide’s most effective player this year, ranked 20th in the competition.
Chad Wingard, even hampered by injury this year, was an All-Australian in his second season.
Both men, top-10 selections, are emerging as the best gems to have come out of their respective drafts.
Toss in Brad Ebert, traded in after that horrible 2011, and Angus Monfries, one of the finds of the 2013 season after being recycled for pick 51.
This year, there’s Jared Polec from Brisbane and Matt White from Richmond. Cleve boy Sam Gray bobs up from the rookie list and boots three goals on debut.
It’s impossible to foretell the future, Cripps insists, but there’s ways to maximise your chances of it being a happy one.
“Looking at a side like Geelong, it’s profiling their list and what they were made up of,” he says.
“It’s what their best team looks like, the decisions they’ve made through the draft and how they’ve been very specific about players they’ve brought in from other clubs to fill specific roles.
“Plus, they’re prepared to make tough decisions. Players like Paul Chapman, Josh Hunt and Joel Corey retiring have gone out of their system — they’re champions of the club, premiership players.
“Chapman and Hunt have gone on to play at other clubs but Geelong was prepared to make those tough calls for the betterment of their list long-term.
“It’s no coincidence that they’re top of the ladder, haven’t lost a game, because they’re able to bring their young guys through at the right time.
“That’s what we’re trying to do.”
THE DEALS THAT HAVE MADE THE DIFFERENCE
MATTHEW Broadbent is through the roof and Ollie Wines was a draft diamond.
Brad Ebert is one of the best trades in Port Adelaide’s history and Robbie Gray’s second year back from a knee injury has been amazing.
Justin Westhoff, Travis Boak, Hamish Hartlett have reached new levels and Kane Cornes has defied the critics. Again.
It all seems pretty obvious, but Champion Data analysis of Port Adelaide’s list from its horror 2011 season to the first five rounds of 2014 confirms a picture of impeccable drafting, shrewd trading and established players finding a way to lift.
According to the numbers Wines is Port Adelaide’s most effective player so far this year, averaging 111.1 ranking points — the same weighted formula used to score Supercoach games — which puts him 20th in the competition. Ebert is 25th in the league with a 110 average.
Neither was at Alberton when the Power narrowly dodged a wooden spoon in 2011.
The big improvers among the familiar faces from that 2011 list are Broadbent (up 26.8 points to 88.1 a game this year) and key forward Jay Schulz (up 24.7 points to 88 a game).
Fifteen players who were listed in 2011 have appeared for the Power so far this year. Twelve have improved, six by a whopping 13 points or more a game.
When Port was in the doldrums in 2011, Champion Data rankings had just two Port players inside the top 200 — Dean Brogan at No. 118 and Troy Chaplin at No. 163.
This year, they have 12 inside the top 200. Four — Wines, Ebert, Chad Wingard and Angus Monfries — have joined the club from 2012 onwards.
This story first appeared in the Advertiser titled ‘How Port Adelaide went from a basket case to an AFL power‘, on 24 April, 2014.