Regrets are an inevitable part of life. They come with the territory of breathing and are a part of the unwritten deal we all sign for the right to exist.

Although some contrition can feel enormous – such as the misery born when a relationship breaks down or after committing a far more criminal act – others are forgotten in the blink of an eye.

In terms of the unpredictable game of football, there are a plethora of scenarios that have made or broken careers.

What if your side picked a different player from a certain draft?

What if your star spearhead had kicked straight when it mattered?

What if a state-league powerhouse had entered the competition earlier?

Well, for fans of every creed we have sought to answer the question that has rankled you for years and kept you up at night for far too long.

We can't promise that we won't open old wounds, as let's face it, that is the entire point of the exercise.

From Adelaide to the Bulldogs, Fitzroy to the Bears, here are every club's biggest 'what if' moments since the dawn of the AFL era in 1990.

OTHER WHAT IFS: AdelaideBrisbane BearsBrisbane LionsCarltonCollingwoodEssendonFitzroyFremantleGeelongGold CoastGWSHawthornMelbourne, North Melbourne 

You're up now, Port fans. We're winding the clock hands back with you today.

What if Port, not Adelaide, had entered the league in 1991?

It's no secret that for the longest time, South Australians and Victorians have never thought much of each other.

Footy fans may have seen this simmering disdain boil over during State of Origin fixtures in years gone by, but for the national competition we now know and love to thrive, it required the old enemies coming together.

Eventually.

By the time that flared jeans and sideburns had gone out of fashion by the mid-1980s, the VFL's bottom line was on life support. The SANFL, then a thriving competition, saw this as their point to pounce and formerly submitted a bid for an expansion license in 1981.

Despite the fact that the VFL, then headed by Dr. Allen Aylett, initially rejected these advances, by the time that Jack Hamilton and Ross Oakley had succeeded the late dentist-turned-powerbroker, the narrative had flipped on its head.

In 1986, the cash-poor but history-rich VFL clubs voted to expand the league so as to recoup funds from the hefty licensing fees that would need to be paid. A year later, the Eagles and Bears entered the competition, but the SANFL, still possibly smarting from their previous rejection, decided to reject the offer to join their neighbours.

Not only did the South Australians turn down the offer but they also launched a community-funded player retention scheme designed to stop the best local talents from crossing into Victoria and plying their trade in Melbourne.

With seven of the SANFL's 10 clubs sitting in the red by the end of the 80's, the league was once again asked to join the newly minted AFL as the league's 15th team. And while SANFL boss Max Basheer once again dismissed the Victorians, a powerhouse team under his watch liked what they were hearing.

By the end of the 1989 season, Port Adelaide were without doubt the most dominant club in South Australia.

Since their foundation in 1870, the Magpies had claimed a grand total of 29 premierships and were looking to cap off the club's third three-peat in 1990. As a community club that not only drew huge crowds but also had stacked coffers, Port Adelaide saw this as their chance to rise above their geographic neighbours and take their successful brand of football to the national level.

Prior to playing a practice match against AFL opponents Geelong ahead of their respective 1990 campaigns, Port signed a head of agreements with the AFL to enter the competition in 1991.

As you may know, Port have long been a club that has a reputation for either being loved or hated, but during the summer months of 1990, everyone – including many at SANFL headquarters – just about everyone sat inside the second camp.

After meetings were held and an agreement was inked at AFL headquarters in Melbourne, Port powerbrokers were sleeping sound in the knowledge that they were finally to be afforded a chance to spread their wings and fly from their outgrown nest.

However, after court proceedings, back-stabbing and a back flip from Basheer, the SANFL applied for Port's license under the same terms and snatched it from them at the eleventh hour.

Now, we all know that this competition-backed team went on to become the Adelaide Crows and that Port would have to wait a further six years and five SANFL flags to join the AFL, but what if the Alberton club weren't played as patsies in this initial deal? What if Basheer and his board had let them fly?

When seeking to get to the bottom of this pair of questions, we must ask a whole lot more, including:

What would Port Adelaide's nickname be in the ‘big league'?

What colours would they wear?

What song would they sing?

Where would they play?

Who would play for them?

Would they be any good?

Would they have won a flag as quickly as the Crows?

Had Port joined the AFL in 1991, the club would have had to have ceded their Magpies nickname. But as has been reported several times by primary sources, they would have simply just operated as the Port Adelaide Football Club rather than seek out an alternative mascot.

As the club's ‘Power' tag came after club officials fell in love with the Orlando Magic moniker during a fact-finding mission to the United States in the mid-90s, this could have still been on the table at an earlier stage.

Yet, as the Florida hoops franchise was yet to win the draft lottery twice by this stage, claiming both Shaquille O'Neal and Anfernee ‘Penny' Hardaway in the process, the nickname definitely didn't have the same lustre as it did later in the decade.

When seeking to find an answer to their potential uniform, the answer is exceedingly interesting given the current climate.

As mentioned earlier, Port Adelaide signed a 15-point agreement with the AFL in 1990, with the ninth point of said document proving the most intriguing.

According to Norman Ashton's 2019 tome Destiny: How Port Adelaide put itself on the national stage'the deal agreed upon by the league and Port stated that:

‘The commission agrees that Port Adelaide shall participate in the AFL competition under the name ‘Port Adelaide' and with players wearing its existing SANFL playing uniform subject only to changing its football socks and changing its Club emblem of ‘The Magpies' so as to avoid confusion with the uniform and emblem of the Collingwood Football Club and subject to Port adopting an alternative uniform involving minor changes for matches between Port and the Collingwood Football Club, such changes to be approved by the Commission.'

So much to Eddie McGuire's chagrin, the Prison Bars would have had a place in the AFL just months after Collingwood claimed its drought-breaking 1990 premiership.

However, Port's theme song would likely have had to change, as Sydney already held the rights to the 'Notre Dame Fight Song'.

In terms of where Port would have played had they entered the AFL early, the only logical conclusion to draw is Alberton, as this was still the era in which teams played at their suburban bases.

Add this to the fact that there was less than a snowflake's chance in Hades that the SANFL would allow the defecting team to play at Football Park, and the answer becomes pretty clear.

Even though this may have seen them take an initial financial hit, the club's perpetually strong membership base and perennially solid relationship with sponsors would have provided stability as the game shifted from its semi-pro status to total professionalism.

When seeking to analyse Port's potential playing list, the answer here is also easy. As Port would claim the 1990 SANFL flag – their third on the trot – you would have to imagine that due to quality and cohesion, the entire playing list would likely have been elevated.

If this was the case, then names like George Fiacchi, Greg Phillips, Gavin Wanganeen, Russell Johnston and Mark ‘Choco' Williams would have either returned to the grade or debuted at the level earlier than in reality.

Head coach, and the man the Power's best and fairest award is named after, John Cahill would have also started his second stint coaching at V/AFL level six seasons earlier than in actuality.

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