Season 2022 left Port Adelaide contemplating what could've been after starting 0-5. Despite getting on track by the season's midway point, crucial losses to Fremantle, Geelong, Melbourne, Collingwood and Richmond put an end to their September aspirations.
For the best part of two seasons, coach Ken Hinkley's future has been under the microscope. With this season his last in his current deal, he will look to weave his coaching magic and guide the Power back into finals football.
Scouting over Port Adelaide's list, it has depth across all areas of the field. During last year's trade period, the Power secured former number one pick Jason Horne-Francis and former West Coast Eagle Junior Rioli. Both will have a large impact on their new club.
Don't expect the Power to stumble out of the gates this season - a club that has a high benchmark of standards.
Let's take a look at how the side's best team on paper will fare when its season begins on Saturday, March 18 against the Brisbane Lions.
Ins: Nathan Barkla (category B rookie), Francis Evans (delisted free agent, Geelong), Jason Horne-Francis (trade, North Melbourne), Kyle Marshall (No.59 draft pick), Tom McCallum (No.36 draft pick), Junior Rioli (trade, West Coast), Thomas Scully (No.53, draft pick)
Port Adelaide's back six is a solid blend of depth that can shut down opposition forwards at any given time. Although the Power had a wobbly opening month to last season, the group steadily began to wear down opponents, only conceding 74.4 points per contest.
With Tom Jonas leading the mantle in defence, the side has a steady leadership influence who rarely loses many contests. That's despite playing undersized (188cm) as one of their key defenders.
Aliir Aliir's ability to read the play and intercept mark is vital to Port's defensive structures. His absence was felt in the early rounds of 2022 after suffering a syndesmosis injury against Brisbane, thus missing the opening month of footy. After returning in Round 5 against Carlton, the 28-year-old's performances would be significant to the Power clamping down on teams.
His terrific outing against Geelong, despite losing by two goals, was one of his career-best games, finishing with 23 disposals and 11 marks. Keeping him fit on the park will be key for Port, considering they are short on intercept defenders.
A bounce-back year is on the cards for Tom Clurey after only managing 13 games in 2022, having been sidelined for rest of the season after the Round 19 clash against Geelong. The 193cm defender is crucial to the side's defensive spine with his task of nullifying the opposition's second-best forward.
Darcy Byrne-Jones put together an impressive campaign consistently performing week-in-week-out in stopping the opposing side's best small forward. The 2020 All-Australian can accumulate possessions at a steady rate with 15 of 21 games, having 20 or more touches. There aren't many times when the 27-year-old's name gets a mention among Port's most underrated, but his ability to consistently perform is why he is an important piece down back.
Ryan Burton is another of the side's important defensive links with his precise kicking skills parallel to the Power breaking away from their defensive 50. The 26-year-old has hardly put a foot wrong since being part of the Chad Wingard trade from Hawthorn to Alberton in 2018. Consistent and ever-reliable, his poise will be integral when the heat is on.
Like Byrne-Jones and Burton, Dan Houston has steadily become a regular member of the best 23. The 186cm defender who can sink the slipper over 50 metres is super consistent without receiving a substantial amount of recognition. The 25-year-old can float between half-back and the midfield at various stages of the contest. Port Adelaide will look to incorporate him more in the middle with his running and powerful kicking.
What the Power lack in defensive tall timber, they make up for with their oriented team-first defence.
The question hovering over their midfield is who will step up and relieve the pressure off senior pair Ollie Wines and Travis Boak. This has been decisively answered with Zak Butters, Connor Rozee and Willem Drew taking the next steps as the side's future onballers.
Butters played all but two games in 2022 with his injection into the middle giving the Power a fresh set of vigour and enthusiasm. The 22-year-old consistently put together solid performances. As the season progressed, Butters' production only became more apparent, especially in the final month of the season. He averaged 26 disposals during the final four games and kicked seven goals. His injection provided an additional hard-nosed, combative edge with his physical approach supplying Port with an additional midfield dimension.
Rozee, drafted alongside Butters in 2018, put together a career-best season, culminating in his maiden club best and fairest award. After a slow start, the 23-year-old shifted into the middle for the Round 5 encounter against Carlton, and from there his game went into the stratosphere. Consistently one of the side's top performers, Rozee's impact left the opposition in their wake. His exceptional kicking and tremendous uncontested ball accumulation would be in full flight.
Willem Drew, Port's stopper, has the flexibility in negating his opponent's influence, and at the same time can play an aggressive style in gathering disposals. The 24-year-old's supreme tackling is an element that allows him to thrive in the trenches.
Wines, the 2021 Brownlow Medallist, put together a terrific campaign averaging 28.4 disposals with his renowned bull-rampaging style of play on full display. Wines almost got the Power over the line against Fremantle, gathering 39 disposals, including 20 contested. He has been providing the same regular hard-nosed level of footy since entering the AFL as an 18-year-old in 2013.
Boak, the stalwart of the club, put together an exceptional year averaging 26.8 disposals. Only once did the former captain have a game with less than 20 disposals, with his clearance work and hunger to win the ball at all costs on full display. Although he is 35, Boak is showing no signs of slowing down with many more seasons left in him.
Port know what the two superstars produce and that now there isn't a constant reliance upon them with the next crop of youngsters stepping up to the task.
The major acquisition is former number one pick Jason Horne-Francis. After enduring a tough first year in the AFL system, the solidly built midfielder is ready to imprint his mark on the big stage having shown glimpses of his star factor.
Ruckman Scott Lycett will be a welcome addition as he seeks to reclaim the number one ruck spot. He will have stiff competition after Jeremy Finalyson's excellent second-half form and the development of mid-season draftee Brynn Teakle.
Lycett's absence was sorely missed with his nonsense battering ram approach setting the tone for the midfield. The 30-year-old only managed four games in 2022 with his campaign cut short by a right shoulder injury against Melbourne in Round 4.
Port Adelaide's forward line is exciting with young forwards Todd Marshall and Mitch Georgiades the faces up front for the next decade. Alongside them are hulking veteran forward Charlie Dixon and the Rambo approach of Sam Powell-Pepper.
Marshall's elevation into one of the side's most promising players in attack saw him produce a career-best season, kicking 45 goals in 2022. Only three times last season the 24-year-old was held goalless with his strong marking and ability to create separation from his defender. He will be a barometer again up forward in 2023.
Georgiades continues to improve despite his kicking wobbles in front of goal. The Marshall-Georgiades combination showed why they are the next exciting upcoming forward duo with their size and athleticism.
The Power will be hoping Dixon has a bounceback year after an ankle injury hampered his 2022 campaign, sidelining him for the first 10 rounds. When he is on, the 32-year-old is a real handful with his clean contested marking a feature of his game. If Dixon produces his 49-goal season in 2017 and 48 goals in 2021, then it's a scary-looking tall trio for opposing defences to contend with.
Powell-Pepper has made himself at home as a pressure forward. His hardness is paramount every time he sets foot onto the field. His consistent effort paid dividends, kicking 24 goals, including a career-high four goals against Essendon.
Seeking to find its Robbie Gray replacement, the Power landed West Coast premiership player Junior Rioli. Possessing a crafty knack around goals and constant tackling pressure, he is the exact fit to complement the key forwards at ground level. It's a fresh start for the 27-year-old, who is ready to thrive in a familiar environment.
FB: Tom Clurey, Aliir Aliir, Ryan Burton
HB: Darcy Byrne-Jones, Tom Jonas, Dan Houston
C: Zak Butters, Ollie Wines, Xavier Duursma
HF: Jason Horne-Francis, Charlie Dixon, Sam Powell-Pepper
FF: Mitch Georgiades, Todd Marshall, Junior Rioli
FOL: Scott Lycett, Travis Boak, Connor Rozee
I/C: Jeremy Finlayson, Miles Bergman, Trent McKenzie, Willem Drew
Sub: Jase Burgoyne