PORT Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley notes that if any football cliche has become relevant in this erratic AFL season it is the hackneyed line of “one week at a time”.
But the crystal ball gazing for the last seven weeks of the home-and-away series already hangs on this question: Will Season 2017 deliver a Showdown final between the Crows and Power — and when in September?
Top-ranked Adelaide (11-4) is one win from qualifying from the top-eight finals for the third consecutive year.
The Crows appear destined for a top-two finish with its run to September involving just one game against a non-contender — Collingwood at the MCG on July 30.
Adelaide’s other six games are against Melbourne (Darwin), Geelong (home), Port Adelaide in a home Showdown, Essendon (Etihad Stadium), Sydney (home) and West Coast (Subiaco, Perth).
Fourth-ranked Port Adelaide (9-6) has — by virtue of its 32-point win against West Coast in Perth on Sunday — changed its status from “pretender” scrambling to stay in the top eight to being considered more than capable of filling out the top four behind the Crows, Greater Western Sydney and Geelong.
“They are as good as anyone,” says former St Kilda and North Melbourne midfielder Nick Dal Santo on Monday.
“The one knock on Port Adelaide was they had not beaten a big team. So that was a great win against West Coast — a fantastic team effort from a really balanced team.”
Ted Hopkins, the creator of the AFL’s official statistical base at Champion Data, has Port Adelaide — in his AFL ranking predictor, TedSports — claiming fourth spot ahead of Richmond on percentage.
This is based on the Power winning five of its remaining seven games against North Melbourne (home), Melbourne (MCG), St Kilda (home), the Crows in Showdown 43, Collingwood (home), AFL premiers Western Bulldogs (Ballarat) and Gold Coast (home).
Hopkins’ forecasting has Adelaide to rank second — with 15 wins — to Geelong (15-1-6).
These predictions — Crows second, Power fourth — deny Adelaide Oval hosting a Showdown final in the first weekend of the month-long play-offs to the premiership.
TedSports’ predictions for the qualifying finals are — Geelong v Port Adelaide, most probably at Kardinia Park; Adelaide v GWS at Adelaide Oval.
Adelaide and Port Adelaide have not both qualified for a top-eight final series since 2007.
The SA rivals have both held top-four rankings in September just once — in 2002.
And the rivalry has played out in the major round only once — in 2005 with the “Ultimate Showdown” semi-final won by Adelaide at Football Park to end the Power’s premiership defence.
That Showdown final unfolded after Adelaide won the minor premiership and Port Adelaide was ranked eighth.
Adelaide already is cast as the $1.60 favourite — against the $2.25 offered for the Power — for the top-four shaping Showdown at Adelaide Oval on Saturday, August 6.
If the bookmakers are right, the Crows would have their fifth consecutive win in a derby — their best-ever run against Port Adelaide, after also winning four in a row in 2005-6.
But, as Hinkley said last week, predicting results in this wide-open season is just too difficult. It truly is one week at a time.