Front and Square

A BIG agenda heads this week’s long awaited return of Front and Square, beginning with the deliberate free kicks fiasco in Perth on Friday night…

You’ve got to be kidding, ump!

Nine deliberate free kicks were paid over the boundary line in the West Coast-Geelong match on Friday night and while most of them were there, that many hasn’t been paid all season.

A message from the umpiring department has come down prior to this game, so confusion is widespread.

Umpiring boss Jeff Gieschen came out on Monday to say that seven out of the nine were current calls, I beg to differ.

Geelong coach Chris Scott also talked about this in his press conference after the match and he was spot on.

It wasn’t the umpires fault, its the message that was delivered from higher authorities.

Will things change or will the same message continue to be delivered going forward?

Time will tell, but this writer can speak for most of the football public in saying that we hope not.

Well done North Melbourne

Clearly the team of the round and a massive turnaround from the 115 point capitulation to Hawthorn in Launceston back in round 10.

Since then the Roos have won every game except a close two point loss to the West Coast Eagles in round 15, surrendering a five goal lead.

Coach Brad Scott has led North to two ninth placed finishes but in his third year looks to grant the club their first finals birth since 2008, where they finished seventh under Dean Laidley.

The weekend’s win after old foe Essendon was bitter sweet, given their history, but even more impressive after losing Leigh Adams and Daniel Wells to injury before Nathan Grima broke down mid-way through the last quarter.

Expansion clubs will take time

The Gold Coast Suns have copped several whacks in their second season, unfairly this writer might add.

Despite the spirited efforts of the new boys in Western Sydney, the Suns are on the right track but its going to take time.

This should not be a shock to many, given both the Suns and the Giants are in the very early stages of building a successful club in the rugby dominated states of Queensland and New South Wales.

In their defense, the Suns have been cruelled with injuries this year – with the likes of Nathan Bock, Michael Rischitelli, Campbell Brown, David Swallow and skipper Gary Ablett all missing at various stages, some more than others.

Not to mention the unfortunate departure of Nathan Krakouer at the start of 2012 and it also must be noted that they’re playing kids out of their depth at the moment.

Likewise for GWS, until these kids get 50-100 games under their belt, its going to be a struggle.

Patience is needed but whichever club makes the finals and wins a premiership first will no doubt have the upper hands over the other.

Your club’s verdict

Adelaide: Will finish top two and get desired home final. Handy draw following solid win. Dangerfield is a star and future captain, Wright a revelation.

RUN HOME: BL (G), Melb (MCG), GC (AS)

Brisbane Lions: Mental lapses brought Lions undone again after encouraging start. Former Hawk Lisle showed a bit and Green provides energy as small forward. Need to finish season well and get a couple wins to build into 2013.

RUN HOME: Adel (G), PA (AS), WB (G)

Carlton: No.1 picks Murphy, Gibbs and Kreuzer pivotal in win that keeps their finals chances alive, despite poor percentage. Blues have at least found in a few players in McInnes, Bell and Casboult.

RUN HOME: Ess (MCG), GC (MS), StK (ES)

Collingwood: Season defining win v Swans without the suspended Swan and Thomas, who was subbed out early. Dawes’ last quarter significant and the rise of Beams to elite big boost.

RUN HOME: NM (ES), WCE (PS), Ess (MCG)

Essendon: Inefficiency killed them yet the fade-out even more disheartening given what’s on the line. Dons look far from finals bound going by that effort. Crucial three weeks coming up.

RUN HOME: Carl (MCG), Rich (MCG), Coll (MCG)

Fremantle: Dockers effort unquestionable, but with Pavlich well held lacked the class to win. Good draw gives them finals hope and realistically the best chance of any club outside of the eight to feature in September.

RUN HOME: Rich (PS), NM (ES), Melb (PS)

Geelong: Tough loss but were always in the contest, good effort without Kelly and Chapman, while Christensen and Hawkins were injured early. Top four aspirations shot, which makes it hard from here.

RUN HOME: StK (ES), WB (SS), Syd (SS)

Gold Coast: Picked up second win of the season through shire effort but will be glad for the season to be over after second-year blues. Expectations will continue to rise but development into a super team will take time.

RUN HOME: Haw (MCG), Carl (MS), Adel (AS)

GWS: Hoskin-Elliott and Treloar shining lights for the Giants missing a few players. Made Suns work hard but wasn’t enough, starting to tire.

RUN HOME: Melb (MO), StK (ES), NM (SK)

Hawthorn: Poor start redeemed by an impressive finish and an 11-goal final term. Injuries to Rioli and Gibson big blows ahead of September.

RUN HOME: GC (MCG), Syd (SCG), WCE (MCG)

Melbourne: Another mental lapse proved costly again, but competitive for longer this time. The efforts of 5-goal hero Blease super but a long way to go before the Dees play finals.

RUN HOME: GWS (MO), Adel (MCG), Frem (PS)

North Melbourne: Inspiring win without Adams and Wells and have just about cemented their spot in the finals for the first time since 2008. Lots to like.

RUN HOME: Coll (ES), Frem (ES), GWS (SK)

Port Adelaide: Failed to capitalise on flying start and blown away in the end, but at least showed intensity. Boak terrific, but will be a big loss if he departs. Lots of work remains to be done.

RUN HOME: WCE (AS), BL (AS), Rich (MCG)

Richmond: Finishing the season well after a series of narrow defeats costing them a tilt at finals action. Cotchin, Deledio, Martin and Riewoldt leading the way. Tigers need to continue strong form as a backbone for 2013.

RUN HOME: Frem (PS), Ess (MCG), PA (MCG)

St Kilda: The loss of skipper Riewoldt to knee injury hit hard but ex-Eagle Wilkes able to fill the void as lesser lights stepped up. Finals hopes rest on not dropping another game.

RUN HOME: Geel (ES), GWS (ES), Carl (ES)

Sydney Swans: Unbeaten run brought to an end but lost game due to blowing opportunities early. Need Reid back to settle forward structure and it may be time to bring in Morton, who has been in ripping form for the reserves for most of the season. Biggest tests will come against the Hawks and the Cats.

RUN HOME: WB (ES), Haw (SCG), Geel (SS)

West Coast Eagles: Got their confidence and resilience back, but up against it for a top four finish. Cox and Naitanui remain their biggest weapon ahead of any finalist and still boast the talent to go all the way.

RUN HOME: PA (AS), Coll (PS), Haw (MCG)

Western Bulldogs: Up against it after late withdrawal of Griffen and showed fight in stages but four quarter effort missing. A side rebuilding and will take time.

RUN HOME: Syd (ES), Geel (SS), BL (G)


Power crisis runs deeper than coach

YESTERDAY Port Adelaide sacked coach Matthew Primus and also announced the resignation of its president, Brett Duncanson.

The former club captain looked to have earnt a third-year contract extension, as indicated by chief executive Keith Thomas on July 20, but now is left without a job.

Monday’s press conference at Alberton was a strange one, given the sole purpose was the announcement of the departure of Primus, yet the club president decided to combine his resignation with that of the now former coach.

Despite the reassurances of calm by the CEO, the certainty of the Power’s ability to make the correct decisions in progression of this proud club has long been in question and the press conference yesterday delivered little hope.

“What is happening is that cool, calculated, well-informed decisions are being made to ensure the success of the club going forward,” Thomas said.

Thomas says an extensive review of the club’s operations is under way, with the input of seven independent experts with AFL pedigrees.

Just 14,583 supporters turned up to watch the Power battle Fremantle at AAMI Stadium in  round 18, only 470 more than its lowest record. Fans, clearly, have given up and any hope once present has now been diminished.

According to The Age, Port has been given its last financial bailout, believed to be in excess of $12 million, by the SANFL, which owns the Power’s license, and the AFL.

The club has clearly conceded that the appointment of Primus after the departure of former boss Mark Williams in 2010, has failed.

Primus was appointed ahead of prospective coaching candidates in Chris Scott and Brendan McCartney, when Williams was dumped seven weeks before the end of his final season with a reported payout of about $450,000.

Lets not forget that it was only eight years ago that Williams led the Power to their first and  only flag since their introduction into the AFL in 1997.

The Port Adelaide of 2012 is far from that premiership team of 2004 and it would be naive to deny that this club isn’t in crisis.

There is much work to be done and whoever is appointed as coach for 2013 must have the full support of the board, access to the best resources and be given time to rebuild.

Two players the club must try to retain is midfielder Travis Boak and key defender Troy Chaplin, both of whom will be contemplating offers from rival clubs and now appear more than likely to add to a growing list of departures come season’s end.


Front and Square

WITH the top eight far from settled, the premiership race is wide open which begins this week’s agenda…

Premiership race wide open

Eight rounds into the season and the top eight is far from a settled mix, with a few suprises no one had predicted.

Adelaide and Essendon are the standouts, followed by an injury-depleted West Coast and Collingwood who just keep performing.

Top four fancies Carlton have dropped dramatically to seventh following two consecutive losses and young gun Marc Murphy joining the likes of Carrazzo, Laidler and Waite on the sidelines.

Fremantle hang in the eight by a thread with St Kilda and Geelong breathing down their necks, as well as ladder surges from the likes of the Western Bulldogs and Richmond.

Usually by this stage of the season the top eight is pretty set and going by the history book, not much changes post-round eight.

2012 is proving a much more open year than seen before, with the top eight far from set.

Your club’s verdict

Adelaide: The in-form team of the competition dominated an under siege Carlton at Etihad Stadium. Former Blue Jacobs won the hitouts convincingly as Thompson and Dangerfield continued their supreme dominance.

Brisbane Lions: Got the win they needed against GWS, which will pay dividends for their confidence. Merrett and Brown combining for twelve goals was a great cameo, but need to build from here.

Carlton: Got hammered against the high flying Crows in a dis-spirited performance.  Blues need to make changes as Murphy joins growing injury list of Carrazzo, Laidler, Waite with the sore Duigan and Henderson.

Collingwood: Gutsy win by the Pies over the reigning premiers, will do wonders for team confidence. Injuries to the likes of Tarrant, Brown, Johnson, Reid and Swan the only concern.

Essendon: The Bombers are flying and make the trip to Western Sydney this weekend to tackle the young Giants. The super impressive Bombers are a lock for top four and have tremendous upside.

Fremantle: Poor effort against the Hawks in Launceston with Ross Lyon coming under fire for not utilising his talented ball-winners to advantage. Dockers are a much better side than what their most recent performance showed.

Geelong: Unlucky to go down to Pies on Friday night, but shot themselves in the foot through too many missed opportunities in their front half. A side in transition with alot of youngsters and expect them to improve.

Gold Coast: Full four quarter performances still lacking for the Suns, hence why they’re yet to win a game. Only in year two and will still take time but sustained effort and continual development of players vital.

GWS: Were smashed up at the Gabba but in their defense, the Giants have played most of the top teams in the first eight weeks of the season. Like the Suns, sustained effort and continual development of the list critical to their success in the Western Sydney region.

Hawthorn: Hawks are back on track after big win over Freo. Big plus is the likes of Gilham, Gibson, Stratton and Schoenmakers in the one backline. Luke Hodge’s persistent knee injury the only concern.

Melbourne: Flattening 102-point loss at the SCG, with the Demons at a miserable 0-8 for the season. Several players disinterested and lack of effort is alarming. Long road ahead for Mark Neeld’s Dees.

North Melbourne: Controlled game until last quarter, when Port Adelaide stormed home from 32 points down to win in last 10 minutes. Gut wretching result for Roos and won’t play finals on the back of those efforts.

Port Adelaide: Terrific win for coach Matthew Primus and his coaching career. Proves the Power have the will, determination and spirit to succeed. There’s talent at Alberton, despite contrary views.

Richmond: Came mighty close to toppling the Bombers but ultimately fell short. Damien Hardwick has Tigers on the right track.

St Kilda: The trip West was always going to be a challenge for the Saints but weren’t disgraced. The loss of Stanley, on top of the injured McEvoy further hits their damaged ruck stocks.

Sydney: Easy win over hapless Dees but the absence of Adam Goodes and Shane Mumford leaves them vulnerable against the top sides. Big game against St Kilda this week.

West Coast: Solid win after Essendon debacle the week before. Dean Cox terrific with 5 goals but the absences of LeCras, Kennedy, Nicoski and Embley has hit them hard. Still convinced they won’t drop a game at home.

Western Bulldogs: Two wins in a row puts the Dogs back in the race for a top eight spot. Big test awaits on Friday night against the Cats.


Front and Square

DUCKING the head and sliding again heads the round six agenda…

Eagles’ ducking

For the second week in a row the West Coast Eagles have been accused of ducking the head for free kicks, this time by North Melbourne after Hawthorn previously.

According to the stats as it stands, the Eagles lead the competition in high tackles (58) followed by cross-town rivals Fremantle (43).

It clearly needs to be monitored but this becoming a major issue doesn’t sit well at all.

It may be as simple as the opposition better employing their tackling techniques, meaning that they get down lower to tackle, therefore eliminating the amount of head high tackles.

As with many things in this game, time will tell.

Sliding

Sliding again was on the agenda, this time with Fremantle’s Greg Broughton who was charged by the Match Review Panel for that exact action.

The Dockers took the charge up to the AFL Tribunal and won, which allows Broughton to play this weekend.

Broughton becomes the second player to get off a sliding charge, after North Melbourne’s Lindsay Thomas.

Everyone is confused with the AFL’s stance on sliding – what can you do and what can’t you do – with the general consensus that players aren’t going to draw back from winning the football.

It’s a contact sport and the AFL must take all factors under consideration before coming out to clear up the confusion.

Your club’s verdict:

Adelaide: Very impressive in best win of the season against the undefeated Swans in Sydney. Midfield stood up and forwards were potent.

Brisbane Lions: Big step backwards in embarrassing loss to the Bombers, were never in it with little effort and poor decision making. Alot of question marks with a coach under pressure.

Carlton: Put the foot down in the second half after an ordinary first. Got the four points with the form of Hampson and Robinson big plusses in Judd’s absence.

Collingwood: Got the result, but Pies well down by their standards. Encouraging signs from lesser lights Sinclair and Keeffe.

Essendon: A big win against a poor Brisbane outfit but looked as polished as they’ve been for a long time. Great rebound and midfield rose to new heights.

Fremantle: Far from convincing against the Suns but a win is a win and they’ll take it. Injuries to Sandilands, Fyfe testing depth but still good enough to go deep in September. Better efforts are needed to challenge the top teams though.

Geelong: Cats are getting the job done nicely, not as ruthless in previous years but interstate trip to Adelaide will test this week. Youngsters Smedts, Motlop, Gillies and co have been able to step into retirement vacancies well which will please the Cats.

Gold Coast: Plenty to admire and lots to like about the Suns. A giant step forward in an honourable loss without stars and the experience of Bock.

GWS: Staying competitive for longer and talent is exceptional. Fantastic first half in first trip to Melbourne and will only get better.

Hawthorn: Hawks got harder edge back. Strong finish was impressive, along with the brilliance of Rioli and Franklin the difference in the end.

Melbourne: Third respectable loss doesn’t change 0-6 scoreline but much better effort.  Starting both Grimes and Trengove on the bench was not a good look.

North Melbourne: Gallant in defeat and became the second club to point out Eagles’ high tackle free kick count. Not the result they were after.

Port Adelaide: Power served up their first genuine shocker of the season. Never in the contest and flat after just a six-goal loss. Calls for Primus’ head already, surely too premature.

Richmond: Got the win after a few near-misses. Ruckman Maric a standout, Nahas a livewire and Deledio all class.

St Kilda: Gave it crack for three quarters, but class of Hawthorn too much to match in the end, and injuries to Fisher and McEvoy will greatly test their depth. Koschitzke’s 5 goals a big plus.

Sydney Swans: No reason to panic as the result could’ve gone either way. The loss of Goodes is a big blow but Swans just pipped by an Adelaide outfit that had more desire and want.

West Coast: Did well despite mounting injuries and a determined North Melbourne side. Will take the win with a bigger test coming up against Essendon.

Western Bulldogs: Super effort against the Pies under lights, where result could’ve gone either way. Griffen, Lake and Boyd stood up but crucial skill errors cost them in the end.


Front and Square

FIRSTLY, apologies for the late start of Front and Square for the 2012 season, but we’re now so let’s dive in and look at this week’s agenda…

An injury rattled round

A month into the season has given us plenty to ponder and discuss but round four proved unfortunate for some, with numerous severe injuries sustained to the likes of Gary Ablett (Gold Coast), Robbie Gray (Port Adelaide), Gary Rohan (Sydney), Andrew Carrazzo (Carlton) and Michael Hurley (Essendon).

Gray and Rohan proved the worst of the lot, who will both miss the remainder of the season an ACL and a broken leg respectively – never a good sight.

Ablett will be back in 2-3 weeks after knee brusing while Hurley will miss Essendon’s Anzac Day clash with Collingwood due to a hamstring and Blues’ onballer Carrazzo will miss 6-8 with a fractured shoulder.

It was a horrid round for injuries, with the graphics of Gray and Rohan’s falls making any footy fan cringe.

Former Tiger Nathan Brown, now apart of Triple M’s footy coverage and a panelist on Channel 9’s Sunday Footy Show since his retirement, broke his leg in similar circumstances to Rohan in 2005 and never got back to his best.

That won’t give Rohan or the Swans confidence but given he’s just in the early stages of his AFL career at 20, the speedster will have the time on his side.

Injuries aside, it just proves how tough and brutal our game is.

Your club’s verdict

Adelaide: Got the four points against GWS, but doubts continue to linger. Crows are 3-1, but haven’t impressed anyone since their NAB Cup triumph.

Brisbane Lions: Big second half got the job done, skipper Brown starting to find touch with Cornelius showcasing his obvious talent along with a dominant midfield performance from reigning B & F winner Tom Rockliff.

Carlton:Big disappointment, looked flat and switched off after best possible start of the season. Loss of Carrazzo is a huge blow to midfield.

Collingwood: Pies back on track, O’Brien finding touch and big guns Pendlebury, Swan and Cloke all firing after a dismall showing last week.

Essendon: The Bombers’ best win of the year and couldn’t come any better than against arch-rival Carlton. Finding good balance of hardness and plenty of run, a criticism in years gone by.

Fremantle: Big statement made by the Dockers away from home – where they have a woeful record – but have found a harder defensive edge under new coach Ross Lyon.

Geelong:No easy beat for the Cats at home but a win is a win. Work to be done if they are to go back-to-back.

Gold Coast: Failed to build on gains made last week, and it doesn’t get any easier with injuries to keys Ablett and Harbrow. Still very much developing in year two.

GWS: The Giants’ best effort thus far, made Adelaide work, and good leadership from co-captains Ward and Power. Will win a game this year.

Hawthorn: Failure to seal the deal in big games becoming more of an issue, should finish top four but has work to be done to advance on last year’s preliminary final.

North Melbourne:Midfield solid but Roos wasted too many opportunities in attack to back up last week’s heroic win over the Cats.

Port Adelaide: The Power continue to plug away and remain competitive but needs to consolidate a win against the cross town rivals this weekend’s showdown. The loss of Gray for the year will hurt.

Richmond: Impressive in defeat to the Cats away but had their chances throughout. Starting to toughen up in most areas.

St Kilda: Saints not getting enough for the return of Hayes’ midfield strength and for plenty of forward entries against the Dockers. Effort is there but output must improve to play finals.

Sydney: Swans again impressive with best start to the season in a long while at 4-0 with more scoring options and midfield depth. Win even more impressive without regular startups Mumford and Goodes.

West Coast: Survived a low-scoring, brutal contested game against the Hawks at home but dug deep to get the four points. Incredibly hard to beat in the West and won’t drop a home game this year. A grand final appearance is not beyond them.

Western Bulldogs: Made to work hard for first win of 2012 by the desperate Demons, but had more poise and delivered when it counted most. Can build from here.


St Kilda 2012 Season Preview

INS: Jay Lever (national draft), Daniel Markworth (national draft), Terry Milera (GWS), Jack Newnes (national draft), Sebastian Ross (national draft), Ahmed Saad (GWS), Jimmy Webster (national draft), Beau Wilkes (West Coast).

OUTS: Steven Baker (delisted), Paul Cahill (delisted), Zac Dawson (Fremantle), Ryan Gamble (delisted), Michael Gardiner (retired), Nick Heyne (delisted), Will Johnson (delisted), Tom Lynch (Adelaide), Andrew McQualter (delisted), Alistair Smith (delisted), Tommy Walsh (Sydney).

YEAR IN REVIEW: The off-season from hell gave way to an equally forgettable start to the 2011 season. The Saints dropped seven of their first eight games, lost spiritual leader Lenny Hayes to a long-term knee injury, and were discredited by countless footy scribes and commentators during the first two months of the season. Somehow, though, they turned it around, winning 11 of their last 14 home-and-away games before bowing out of the finals at the hands of Sydney Swans. Nick Dal Santo finished second in the Brownlow, Stephen Milne was All Australian and ruckman Ben McEvoy began to deliver on his promise. Skipper Nick Riewoldt’s struggle with injury and form was a lowlight, as was the abrupt defection of coach Ross Lyon to Fremantle at season’s end.

GAME BREAKER: After his brilliant performance in the drawn grand final in 2010, Brendon Goddard looked set to take his game to another level last year. Some knowledgeable footy people even tipped him to become the most dominant player in the game. Instead, ‘B.J.’ became the poster boy for a confused and frustrated Saints outfit in the first half of 2011. He began to work his way back to his damaging best in the latter part of the season and, with his unrivalled versatility and penetrating kick, remains the most dangerous player on the list. Comes out of contract at the end of the year, so will be desperate to perform.

RISING STAR: Classy half-forward Arryn Siposs played five games in his debut season at St Kilda. That’s no mean feat, given that the Saints have been reluctant to blood their recent draftees. The Pakenham teenager has a great pair of hands, a booming kick and a quiet confidence about him that suggests he could become a regular contributor in 2012.

KEY ARRIVAL: Football boss Chris Pelchen’s brief for trade week was pretty clear. Speed was the priority and the Saints eventually delivered in the form of mature-age recruits Ahmed Saad and Terry Milera. Saad, who was named the VFL’s most promising young talent last year after booting 49 goals for Northern Bullants, has impressed already and should prove to be a nice running mate for Stephen Milne.

COACH FACTOR: St Kilda’s 2012 list is the oldest in the competition, stacked with top-end quality but lacking depth and elite young talent. Success, in the form of three grand finals in 2010 and 2011, has come at a price. So, in many ways, Scott Watters’s task of taking the baton from Ross Lyon is an unenviable one. Watters has spoken of rebuilding and contending, but whether it’s possible to do both remains to be seen. As does the Watters’ game plan. Most assumed he’d employ a more free-flowing style than Lyon. Don’t bet on it. The former Eagle and Swan was Collingwood’s defensive coach during the Pies’ 2012 premiership campaign, so clearly knows a thing or two about putting the brakes on.

STATS THAT MATTER: St Kilda’s recruiting staff may as well have worn Sandringham polo shirts to the ’09 and ’10 national drafts, because the Saints rank last in the competition for total games played by those draft classes. It’s been a steady diet of VFL action for the new boys, who, combined, have cracked it for just 14 AFL appearances. Compare that to Richmond, who have piled 166 games into their 2009-10 draftees to lead the competition in that category. Even Geelong, whose premiership window has been wide open, have got 83 games out of their youngsters during that period.

THE VERDICT: 12th. An era is over and the Saints need to take a few steps back and make another assault in two or three years. The Saints’ top players have been up for a long time but improvement must come from their 50-100 game players below them. They just haven’t recruited and played enough kids in the past few years, which has set them back. They recruited well at the end of last year but lost Tom Walsh and Tom Lynch, both of whom should’ve been given more opportunities under Ross Lyon. Still expect a formidable year but finals won’t happen in 2012.

BEST 22

B: Dempster Blake Gilbert

HB: Gwilt Fisher Clarke

C: Montagna Hayes Goddard

HF: Schneider Riewoldt Armitage

F: Milne Koschitzke Saad

Foll: McEvoy Jones Dal Santo

I/C: Steven, Siposs, Cripps

SUB: Geary


Port Adelaide 2012 Season Preview

INS: Brendon Ah Chee (national draft), Nathan Blee (national draft), Brad Ebert (West Coast), John McCarthy (Collingwood, pre-season draft), Brent Renouf (Hawthorn), Chad Wingard (national draft).

OUTS: Dean Brogan (GWS), Chad Cornes (GWS), Jason Davenport (delisted), Danny Meyer (retired), Daniel Motlop (delisted), Marlon Motlop (delisted), Michael Pettigrew (retired).

YEAR IN REVIEW: Matthew Primus’s first full season in charge at Alberton was always based on rebuilding but nobody could have known just how much work needed to be done. The Power dodged the wooden spoon by just 8.24 per cent in a three-win campaign. From the rubble, however, emerged a couple of signs of life. John Butcher kicked 11 goals in his first four AFL games, in the closing month of the season, and then penned a contract extension. Jasper Pittard displayed his undoubted talent in 13 games off half-back and finished seventh in the club’s best and fairest.

GAME BREAKER: Last year we saw a wave of talented players head to half-back in a bid to damage from defence. It’s where coaches deployed their classy kicks and zone-breakers, including Chris Yarran at Carlton. It seems the Power have cottoned on to the idea and trialled Danyle Pearce during the pre-season. It worked well and could be the move he needs to rediscover his damaging ways.

RISING STAR: Expect Andrew Moore to emerge in 2012. Moore was a highly-rated backman when taken No.9 in the 2009 draft and re-signed with the club at the same time as John Butcher late last year. It’s fair to say it was with a little less fanfare. He’s finally getting some continuity into his training and can benefit from regular action.

KEY ARRIVAL: Brad Ebert is a 21-year-old, first-round draft pick with 76 games to his name. He cost Port Adelaide two mid-range draft picks (No.28 and No.49). Bargain. He’s had his knockers since walking out on West Coast – mainly disappointed Eagles fans – but he’s got the attributes and time to become an elite midfielder. There are concerns over his kicking but Ebert says that he’s worked hard over the pre-season to improve it.

COACH FACTOR: Matthew Primus won five of his first seven games as Port Adelaide coach after replacing Mark Williams late in 2010. Last season he oversaw three victories from 22 matches. It’s hard to tell if he’s capable or not because last year he had a side cruelled by injury and an under-resourced coaching panel behind him. The club saw the need to beef up Primus’s support staff and added Shaun Rehn, Brad Gotch, Josh Carr and Tyson Edwards. This season will be a fairer test for the former Power skipper.

NUMBERS GAME: Port Adelaide ranked 17th in the competition for inside 50s per game in 2011. Even Gold Coast, with their inexperienced midfield being carried by Gary Ablett, pumped the ball into attack more regularly. Why? Port were ranked 15th in contested possessions and 13th in clearances.

THE VERDICT: 15th. There is undoubted talent on Port’s list and, although its early, there appears to be greater structure and organisation around the way they are setting up this year. A potential key position star in John Butcher helps, and they’ve been able to keep the group intact through a tough period. Adding local boy and ex-Eagle Brad Ebert, along with Collingwood midfielder John McCarthy and Hawthorn premiership ruckman Brent Renouf are big pluses. Should be much more competitive in 2012.

BEST 22

B: Trengove Carlile Pittard

HB: Pearce Chaplin Thomas

C: Hartlett Boak Brad Ebert

HF: Gray Schulz Rodan

F: J.Westhoff Butcher Brett Ebert

Foll: Renouf Cassisi K.Cornes

I/C: Lobbe, Salopek, McCarthy

SUB: Wingard