After two successive seasons of preliminary final appearances, season 2022 didn't go according to plan for Port Adelaide. Marred by an 0-5 start, the Power were left to play catchup, and eventually their finals hopes diminished at the hands of Richmond in Round 21.
Despite not exceeding lofty expectations, there was a definitive promise with young stars making the next leap, including Connor Rozee who went on to make his maiden All-Australian appearance, Sam Powell-Pepper in his hybrid role as a forward/midfielder, and Todd Marshall coming of age as a young key forward.
With the pressure cooker firmly on coach Ken Hinkley as he enters his 11th season in charge, the Power hope to avoid last season's shaky start to get on the right note this Saturday against premiership contenders Brisbane at Adelaide Oval.
Here are five burning questions surrounding Port Adelaide's hopes in 2023.
3. Will Ken Hinkley be at Alberton in 2024 and beyond?
Being a coach in the AFL is a pressure cooker. From dealing with external noise and restless supporters when results aren't going well, it's difficult to shrug off. For Ken Hinkley, he has achieved everything there is to offer except for one prize: an elusive premiership.
When Hinkley was appointed as Port Adelaide's coach in late 2012, the club was on its knees both financially and out on the playing field. Within a space of five years of reaching the grand final in 2007, the proud club had become a basket case. However, with a changing of the guard in appointing Hinkley to lead the club back to the promised land and with the exuberant David Koch as chairman, this would be a sign of positivity to arise from the ashes.
Sure enough, it did. Hinkley immediately had success, steering Port to the finals in his first year at the helm - reaching a semi-final appearance and ultimately losing to Geelong. The following year was almost the year, a whisker away from making the grand final, heartbreakingly losing to Hawthorn by three points in the preliminary final.
By far, Port was the most exciting side to watch with its electric ball movement and unwavering fitness levels under high-performance guru Darren Burgess.
A decision on Hinkley's coaching future isn't expected to be made until August, one he says the club's on-field results will speak for themselves.
“We all understand the performance industry and we're not naive to that. But what we do know is that nothing is achieved by making silly decisions or crazy decisions. We'll prepare to get the season right, and it's really important to get the start of the season right, and we'll go through the season and see what happens from there," Hinkley told The Age last month.
Since 2014, the Power has been on the end of two preliminary final losses - Richmond in 2020 and the Western Bulldogs in 2021. For all the success put in compiling a 126-87 win-loss record (59.15%), 2023 looms as the major test as to whether the fiercely competitive Hinkley remains the main man of the Power ship.