Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley has expressed his delight in the leadership of his young midfielder core, with Power duo captain Connor Rozee and young gun Jason Horne-Francis leading the charge in Friday's win over Essendon.

Rozee was a difference maker in the opening half of the 69-point win, recording 20 disposals and three goals before the main break to give the home side some early breathing space over the Bombers.

Horne-Francis was prolific throughout the win, combining with Rozee and Zak Butters in a midfield unit that was without veteran Travis Boak for most of the contest as well as Brownlow winner Ollie Wines.

The trio of Horne-Francis, Rozee and Butters tallied 20 clearances in what was a dominant performance for the Power at Gather Round, with Hinkley noting Rozee's first two quarters were arguably the best he's seen from the first-year captain.

"I've seen him play some pretty good games already but not that good. Not in the first half particularly," Hinkley said.

"It was outrageous what he was doing. He's a great young captain."

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 05: Connor Rozee of the Power is tackled by Zach Merrett of the Bombers during the 2024 AFL Round 04 match between the Port Adelaide Power and the Essendon Bombers at Adelaide Oval on April 05, 2024 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Horne-Francis rivalled Rozee for best-afield honours with his 31 disposals, 13 contested possessions, ten clearances and over 600 metres gained in the victory, with the former No.1 pick fit and firing after returning from a recent hamstring issue.

Hinkley praised the 20-year-old's performance, which came as a little surprise internally given Horne-Francis' summer standards.

"We could give him a couple of weeks off more often perhaps," Hinkley laughed.

"There's been a lot said over the pre-season, Jason had a great pre-season. He's started the year really strongly, had a little interruption but came straight back in and looked pretty good."

With hard-nosed onballer Willem Drew contributing a game-high 17 contested possessions against the Bombers, the Power's engine room was a constant headache for Essendon in front of a sold-out crowd.

With Drew, 25, the oldest of Hinkley's midfield quartet, the Power coach has challenged his central tandem to lead by example on the field this year.

"We're really clear that leadership is about performance on gameday," Hinkley added.

"That's something that Connor and Zak and the rest of the leadership group have really taken on board.

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"That's their critical moment, performance on gameday, and they're growing into leadership away from those days.

"Josh (Carr) has done an outstanding job of growing that young group of mids, and Drew has stepped up this year, he goes unnoticed but not by us. The three (Rozee, Horne-Francis and Butters) get noticed a fair bit."

Following their loss to Melbourne last weekend, the Power will be hoping to collect successive wins with a meeting against Fremantle to come next Saturday at Adelaide Oval.

 2024-04-05T09:10:00Z 
Port Adelaide WON BY 69 POINTS
Adelaide Oval
PORT   
111
FT
42
   ESS