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Gary Buckenara analyses Port Adelaide’s list after the 2017 season
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PORT Adelaide may see itself entering the premiership window, but I’ve got doubts over whether this list can challenge at this stage.

A decision needs to be made on whether some of the players on the list can take it to a flag.

The Power had a good season, but it ended in extremely disappointing circumstances — they should have beaten the Eagles in that elimination final but just butchered the footy.

The list is reasonably balanced in terms of player types but there are too many C-graders who have been around for a while. Are these players going to take the club forward and get it to a position where it can genuinely challenge for the premiership?

The question for the list management team and coach Ken Hinkley is: Do we keep these guys around for another year or do we make the decision now that they aren’t going to be in our next premiership side?

If the answer is the latter, the Power need to add youngsters through the draft or target players via trade who will be in their best 22.

The players I’m thinking the club needs to consider are: Matt White, Aaron Young, Matthew Lobbe, Brendon Ah Chee (who has asked for a trade), Karl Amon, Jimmy Toumpas, Jack Hombsch, Jarman Impey (wants to be traded), Logan Austin, Aidyn Johnson, Billy Frampton and Jesse Parker.

A lot of these players are either fringe or depth players who are constantly rotated in and out of the side because they’re either inconsistent or not good enough.

Port Adelaide failed to win matches against top eight teams this year despite ending the home-and-away season in fifth and that’s because their A and B-grade players — Robbie Gray, Chad Wingard, Ollie Wines, Paddy Ryder, Travis Boak, Brad Ebert, Charlie Dixon, Justin Westhoff, Hamish Hartlett and Jasper Pittard — are really good but it drops away dramatically after that.

The difference between the good sides and the great sides is the strength of the bottom six players of the best 22 and for Port Adelaide theirs are far too inconsistent.

The other factor is Port Adelaide had an unbelievable run with injuries this year — it basically didn’t have an injury all season and had the luxury of making just one change on form all year. And yet, it still couldn’t beat the top sides. That is a worry and reinforces the issue of depth after those top players.

I think this year has provided Port Adelaide with a false economy and the club needs to be careful going forward to not overrate where it’s placed.

In my opinion, the list needs a freshen up.

At the same time, you can’t make wholesale changes to your senior list in one season, so I expect some change this year and more next year to allow the Power to utilise what is going to be a super draft in 2018.

Some players will survive and just be kept on the list for depth.

Port Adelaide can also regenerate its side by actually giving its young players a chance. The club seems to always turn to the same players — Impey, Neade, Young, Broadbent and these types — because they know what they’re going to get from them.

It’s time to develop the youngsters, give them a chance, and see if they can be better than these older guys. That’s where the improvement could come for the Power. There are guys on the list who are the future of the club.

Riley Bonner has been on the list for two years and has only played four career games — I want to see him player regularly. The same goes for Todd Marshall — he should be a regular fixture alongside Dixon and Westhoff — and Dan Houston should play every week.

Young gun Dan Houston must join new teammate Tom Rockliff in the Power 22 every week in 2018. 

Joe Atley and Willem Drew are two players who were rated pretty highly in last year’s draft — give them a go and they could make an impact, just as Sam Powell-Pepper did.

Give these guys some continuity at the level so they can get comfortable and play their game. Take the risk.

Tom Rockliff has arrived as a free agent and he’ll add to the grunt around the ball and be one of the top 10 players on the list.

But do the Power have too many of that type of player?

Wines is a bull but I think Sam Powell-Pepper can be a more outside type, as can Boak, so the addition of Rockliff will release those guys into their more natural roles.

His addition will not only add to the midfield depth but potentially give them a different look if Boak and Powell-Pepper can play more outside roles.

Port Adelaide is chasing Jack Watts hard and that is a smart recruiting and list management decision. Dixon really plays a lone hand up forward with Westhoff floating in and out but Watts will be that lead-up type that can be a link between the midfield and forwardline.

Watts is a really good ball user and he’s one of the best distributors when it comes to hitting up a player inside 50, so if the Power can get him, that would transform the way they move the ball forward.

It would also give them a really dangerous forward mix with Gray and Wingard down there.

Having said that, can Watts produced this type of football consistently enough to help the Power?

That has been the big knock on him and why Melbourne is keen to move him on.

They are demanding a high price for him but if I was the Power I’d only offer a second-round pick.

Port Adelaide has also been linked to Steven Motlop as a free agent and he would certainly provide some speed that the side needs, but the issue is his consistency — can Hinkley get him performing at his best or somewhere near it week in, week out?

I’m not sure he’d be the right fit. I’d rather invest in the draft, because Gray and Wingard play very similar roles.

Could Hawk Ty Vickery help the Power? 
What about plucky Hawthorn teammate Paul Puopolo? 

WHAT THEY NEED

I think the Power needs ruck back-up in the form of a genuine forward-ruck, rather than someone who plays predominantly as a ruckman so it can keep All-Australian Ryder in the No. 1 role.

Lobbe is a ruckman and can’t really play forward so that’s why he hasn’t been getting a game.

I’d be looking around at other clubs and try to tempt an experienced player who could fill that role. The trouble is, they are very hard to find. Failing that, a player of that type would be a priority in the draft this year.

If Hawthorn wants to trade out Ty Vickery after one disappointing year on the list, he would be the type of player I’m thinking of, especially if Watts doesn’t want to go to Port.

I know he hasn’t worked out for the Hawks and he’s a whipping boy, but perhaps moving away from Melbourne could benefit him. He’d be a good fit as that ruck back-up and an insurance policy for Charlie Dixon up forward as the main target, should he suffer an injury.

Charlie Dixon was a powerhouse for Port in 2017 — but he needs more help up front. 

Port Adelaide also need a quick and clever small forward. Wingard and Gray spend a lot of time inside 50 but they’re more marking and leading types who then go through the midfield.

Jarman Impey has tried to fill that type of role and even Jake Neade but they’ve been nowhere near consistent enough. I think Neade’s best position is through the midfield.

Having a dynamic and clever small forward with good goal sense would really elevate the forward line because Dixon and Westhoff can crash the packs and that brings the smaller guys into the game. Very dangerous.

I’d be having a look at and a chat to Paul Puopolo from Hawthorn — he’s from Adelaide and fits the bill perfectly. We know the Hawks are open to moving on experienced premiership players, so he could be gettable.

Players with tearaway speed are also a need. The Power has lost a bit of that dynamic speed it had back in 2014 that made it such a dangerous side, it was their real weapon.

Port needs a genuine crumbing small forward to complement the likes of Chad Wingard. 

UNDER THE PUMP

The players I mentioned earlier who are depth or C-grade types are the ones who need to show something next year, if they stay on the list, or risk being delisted. White, Lobbe, Ah Chee (if he’s not traded), Amon, Toumpas, Hombsch, Austin, Johnson, Frampton and Parker. Are they part of the future or not?

BUCKY’S LIST CHANGES

Angus Monfries and Nathan Krakouer have retired, while Jackson Trengove has departed as a free agent to the Bulldogs. I’d also move on Frampton and White.

CRYSTAL BALL

I think Port Adelaide will again be a 12-6 side and in the mix to fill the last few spots in the top eight but that is dependant on having a healthy list like it had this year. The club needs to address, over the next year or two, the balance on the list in terms of evening out the talent — a better mix of A, B and C-grade players so it builds the depth it needs to cover injuries when they inevitably strike. That is the big challenge.

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