It is amazing how quickly things change in the world of AFL football. It was only in 2012 the very existence of Port Adelaide in the AFL was questioned by certain pundits. Port Adelaide was getting smashed in games of football, the club was making massive financial losses off the field, the tarps jokes were in full swing, a mass exodus of players was apparently on the cards and Matthew Primus had been sacked as coach before the end of the season. Port Adelaide was expected to struggle to be competitive and it would take years for Port Adelaide to compete and challenge for finals football. Three years later and Port Adelaide is considered underachievers for not challenging for the 2015 Premiership. Welcome to the world of AFL football.
No doubt improved performance leads to increased expectations. No one in their wildest dreams thought Port Adelaide would play finals in the first two years under new coach Ken Hinkley. But the expectation was after a Preliminary Final in 2014, Port Adelaide would play finals football again in 2015, and challenge for the Premiership. A pretty quick turnaround from 2012.
All the experts have had their say on what went wrong for Port Adelaide in 2015. As disappointing as the season was it is perhaps not as bad as first thought when going back and analysing. Losses to Carlton and Brisbane were inexcusable, but Port Adelaide still won twelve games for the season and finished in 9th spot. Twelve wins would have been enough to play finals football in five of the last six seasons. In fact had Port Adelaide snuck into the finals, Port Adelaide certainly would have relished another Elimination Final against Richmond.
Every team has injuries and they are simply apart of football. Port Adelaide generally has had a good injury run during the Ken Hinkley tenure; last season was probably the most testing. Jared Polec, Ollie Wines, Matt White, Alipate Carlile, Jackson Trengove all missed significant periods of football. The form of the players such as Matt Lobbe, Angus Monfries and Tom Jonas also of concern at different parts of the season amongst others.
Every team will have renewed hope for 2016. The top teams will be looking to challenge again, other teams will harbor hopes of finals qualification and teams such as Brisbane and Carlton simply looking for genuine improvement. Predictions can be very difficult and dangerous at this time of year, but you get the distinct impression Port Adelaide will learn the lessons from 2015. Ken Hinkley spoke at the Best and Fairest and was certain Port Adelaide has learnt the lessons, certainly 50,000 plus Port Adelaide members will be hoping he is right.