What's Port Adelaide's Kryptonite?
Port Adelaide missed a massive opportunity to nab a second club premiership last year.
Post-to-post Minor Premiers, a Preliminary Final at the Adelaide Oval, the prospect of Grand Final played outside of the MCG, and a list choc-full of spunk that had the confidence to match it with the league’s best.
And yet, they went home empty handed, extending their Grand Final absenteeism to at least 14 years.
After knocking off Geelong in their Qualifying Final, the Power welcomed in the Tigers for the right to book a Grand Final spot, and while they were able to match it with the league's benchmark, winning the disposal count by 32 and the inside-50's by a massive 14, they ultimately couldn't get it done when push came to shove.
Over the course of Port's rather exceptional 2020 campaign, their one pronounced weakness came back to bite them when it mattered most, with their lack of efficiency inside-50 undoing an otherwise faultless season.
Last season, Ken Hinkley’s men produced a scoring shot on 46.3% of their inside-50 entries, which ranked 7th in the league, and which crashed to an even more worrisome 20.3% in their ill-fated Preliminary Final loss to Richmond.
While sure, the Power were able to muster no less than 59 inside-50’s against the famously stout Tiger defence, their attack froze in the bright lights, scoring just 6 goals, and sorely lacking the kind of requisite killer punch so needed to knock-off heavyweight opponents.
While Port were licking their wounds, the following week's Grand Final was a reminder of the imperative of forward execution, with the Tigers generating a scoring shot on 51% of their 49 inside-50s compared with Geelong’s 40% return.
On Grand Final day the year prior, and on albeit playing surface more conducive to cleaner football, Richmond produced a scoring shot on 55.9% of their inside-50 entires en-route to their 89-point evisceration of the Giants.
Yes, playing brilliant football can take you places, and in Port's case in took them all the way to its first Minor Premiership in 16 years, yet being able to make the most of the chances that present themselves, and on the biggest stages, is very often the difference between going home smelling of champagne, or finding yourself in the foetal position.
So, through the first couple of rounds, have we seen any evidence of Port mending their ways?
While they've seamlessly resumed their position atop the ladder, destroying both North Melbourne and Essendon by a combined 106 points, the alarming news for Port is that they could have inflicted even more damage.
While their opening-round trouncing of the Roos was achieved with a lofty 58.3% conversion rate inside-50, with the likes of Charlie Dixon excelling and Orazio Fantasia starring on debut, their cameo against Essendon re-introduced a couple of uncomfortable truths.
While the Power did run rampant, smashing the Bombers by 54 points, their 46.8% conversion rate was a below league-average figure, and the kind of number that would likely steer them into trouble against more accomplished outfits.
While no one is doubting the quality of Port's list, nor its coaching acumen, there will remain some serious doubt about the club's ability to convert against the best and brightest.
While the Bookies have a the Power as the competition's primary threat to Richmond, the Stats Insider futures model, like so much of the football world, remains skeptical, currently pegging all of Richmond, Geelong and the Bulldogs as more likely premiership candidates.
Whether Port can induce a higher level of efficiency will continue to keep Ken Hinkley and the Power brain trust awake at night. Thankfully the club has the rest of the season to sort out what's unquestionably the club's kryptonite.
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