Port Adelaide had three big fish to reel in throughout the trade and free agency period, and they beat out rival clubs to secure the full trio of Tom Rockliff, Jack Watts and Steven Motlop. The jury was undecided on Port Adelaide for the entire 2017 season as they struggled against top eight teams but still pushed for a top four finish; the three big off-season acquisition primes them to take the next step and be a true premiership contender in 2018 and beyond.
Former Brisbane captain Tom Rockliff will be the biggest contributor out of the trio. Rockliff is known as an AFL Fantasy pig as he often racks up scores of 150+, but he has had his leadership and impact questioned throughout his tenure with Brisbane. He will need to prove that he can contribute to a winning team to shut down any speculation he has been nothing more than a guy who racks up good stats on a bad team. In 2014 – his lone All Australian selection year – Rockliff averaged 32.7 disposals, 5.3 marks, 9.1 tackles and 6.4 clearances. The stats are elite, but Brisbane won just seven games that season. Rockliff is a rare talent as a contested player from both an attacking and defending point of view; he is one of the league’s best ball winners at stoppages and he is an undeniably good tackler. He also showed his tagging ability in round 18 when he suffocated Bryce Gibbs and kept him to just eight disposals. With Rockliff strengthening Port’s midfield they will have the freedom to keep Robbie Gray as a pure forward and also rotate Chad Wingard and Travis Boak between the midfield and forward line. Despite his critics, this is a brilliant inclusion from Port Adelaide, one of the best moves of the off-season.
2008 number one draft pick Jack Watts is an underrated inclusion for the Power. While he took a long time to find his feet at AFL level and obviously hasn’t lived up to the hype of a top draft pick, he eventually carved out a role in Melbourne’s best 22 as a versatile half forward. While he hasn’t been the goal kicker many were expecting, he has never been on a finals team and has struggled with poor service for the bulk of his career. It’s hard to kick a lot of goals when your team is the constant recipient of 10+ goal thrashings. With less expectation and responsibility, Watts should improve and be beneficial for his new team. In his final two seasons with Melbourne he kicked a respectable total of 60 goals from 38 games, but the weight of expectation from being a top draft pick always dragged him down. That expectation is gone now and the Port Adelaide fans will see him for what he is – a solid half forward who will play a strong supporting role to Charlie Dixon and Robbie Gray.
Former Cat, Steven Motlop, will be another helpful piece in Port Adelaide’s premiership puzzle, but he will have to play well more often than he did for Geelong. At his best Motlop is hard to contain as both a ball winner and a goal kicker, however he has struggled with inconsistency and he will need to shake that reputation in order to win over the Power fans. Motlop’s 2017 started with three multiple goal tallies in his first four games, but he only managed to do it once for the rest of the season. Like Watts and Rockliff, Motlop gives the Power even more freedom with their team selection as he’s as good on the ball or on a wing as he is playing as a forward. If Motlop can improve on consistency and his oft-questioned work rate, he will fit in well with the Power. But if not, he may find himself as a well-paid SANFL player.
Even with all the incoming talent the Power managed to keep most of their core players. The most hurtful loss will be small forward Jarman Impey, who was traded to the Hawks after requesting a trade for family reasons. The small forward was okay without being great for the Power, and his loss is offset by the incoming players. Motlop will mostly fill his role, but the Rockliff inclusion to the midfield will also give more opportunities to other midfielders to play in Impey’s former role. Despite finishing his career in Port Adelaide in the SANFL, New Bulldog Jackson Trengove will be a big loss for the Power too, as they have now committed to their young back line over Trengove’s experience. Trengove spent much of his final year with the Power as a forward, but it was an ineffective experiment and he was better known for his work in the back line. Watts may spend some time on half back to fill the gap, but it’s up to youngsters like Riley Bonner to continue playing that role at a high level, otherwise the Power will start to miss Trengove. Brendon Ah Chee was traded to West Coast for a strengthened draft position. Former number one ruckman Matthew Lobbe has departed in a salary dump for the Power which will only hurt their reserves side, while Logan Austin and Aaron Young were also traded for future draft picks.
The Power’s busy off-season came at a price, as they now don’t have a draft pick until pick 46. They will enter the 2017 draft with picks 46, 49, 59, 62, 63, 86, 95, and 104. The lack of early picks shows how aggresively they have traded, and serious the Power are about winning now with the list they have.
There was also some movement in future draft picks for Port Adelaide among many of their trades which has resulted in them owning an extra second and third round pick next season.
Port Adelaide has done what too few clubs are brave enough to do – they have fully committed to winning now while their premiership window is open. Most clubs are too concerned with their youth and draft picks when they are in a premiership window instead of sacrificing some of those future assets to assemble a winning team. If this team doesn’t win a premiership, at least they can say they tried instead of being content with a handful of 5th-8th finishes. Port Adelaide (along with Essendon) were the big winners of the trade and free agency period and it puts them in a great position for season 2018. Anything less than a top 4 finish will be a disappointment for the new look Power.
With three best 22 players incoming and only fringe players outgoing, Ken Hinkley will be faced with the best dilemma a coach can have – difficult team selection. Rockliff, Watts and Motlop give the Power incredible versatility all around the ground and the trio should significantly improve the Power’s midfield and forward line. Add and improved midfield and forward line to the reigning All-Australian ruckman and the second best defence and you’ll see that this team is in great stead heading towards 2018.
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