ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 11: Peter Ladhams and Charlie Dixon of the Power look dejected after losing the AFL Second Preliminary Final match between Port Adelaide Power and Western Bulldogs at Adelaide Oval on September 11, 2021 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

Last weekend's 71-point home preliminary loss was both shocking and painful for Port Adelaide supporters.

They were primed for a premiership tilt.

On paper, everything had gone right. The Power had won 10 of their last 11 games, including a three-point away victory against the Dogs in the last round of the season.

Their list profile looked perfect; a healthy mix of hardened veterans, energetic youth and mid-aged guns like Ollie Wines and Aliir Aliir entering into their prime.

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Whilst the Victorian and NSW sides played home games interstate or at empty stadiums, Port played in front of their home crowd at the Adelaide Oval.

A heart-breaking six-point loss to Richmond in last year's preliminary final seemed to set the stage for a Power side that was ready to take the crown in 2021.

But suddenly the train was ground to a halt.

Last Saturday's defeat to the Bulldogs marked only the fourth time in VFL/AFL history that a side has lost consecutive home preliminary finals. Between the first three sides to do it - Collingwood (1945-46), Geelong (1980-81) and Western Bulldogs (1997-98) - none went on to win a final the following year.

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Backing up again after another devastating final will be easier said than done.

Worse still, Hinkley and his men will spend the rest of the summer wondering whether they just missed their biggest chance to win it.

Like Brisbane in 2020, Port Adelaide gave up a golden opportunity to play in a Grand Final outside of Melbourne. Now both sides will likely need to win it at the MCG if they are still to taste premiership glory.

The reliance on their veterans is also of growing concern. Robbie Gray (33yo), Travis Boak (33), Charlie Dixon (31 this week) and Tom Jonas (30yo) still play vital roles for the side.

Another 12 months and 20-plus games will ask a lot of these club champs come finals.

Both grand finalists, Melbourne and the Bulldogs, boast squads that will be strong for many years to come. With other young sides like Sydney also flying up the ladder, Port's premiership window could close out on them fast.

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The loss to the Bulldogs further emphasised Port's desperate need for another big-bodied defender.

With Aliir most effective playing off lesser forwards, Hinkley was forced to put 191cm Trent McKenzie onto the high-flying Aaron Naughton. McKenzie was badly exposed as Naughton tore apart the home side, taking six contested marks for the game.

A limited hand at this year's draft (only on draft pick inside the top 55 selections) will limit what Port can do with their list over the off-season.

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Hinkley himself is also under enormous pressure as he enters his tenth year as coach.

Hinkley is only 16 games away from beating an unwanted record; the most games coached for a club without winning a premiership.

Port Adelaide have reached three preliminary finals under their current senior coach, but have so far failed to go any further. Another unsuccessful campaign in 2022 could be catastrophic.

Luckily, the news isn't all bad for Port Adelaide.

Reports that young Swans defender Jordan Dawson is planning to move to South Australia would excite the Power faithful.

Meanwhile, Port's wave of exciting youngsters will only improve with another year under their belts. Zak Butters, Connor Rozee, Mitch Georgiades and Xavier Duursma all had interrupted seasons but look set to explode with an extended run at it.

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Although the path back from consecutive prelim losses will be tough, Port will know they already did it 17 years ago. After winning the 2004 Grand Final, Mark 'Choco' Williams' famously choked himself with his tie in reference to their earlier finals defeats.

The window hasn't closed on the Power just yet. The challenge now for Hinkley is to figure out what went so wrong last Saturday and to galvanize his troops for another tilt.