As Port Adelaide got season 2016 off to a winning start against St Kilda on Easter Sunday it was Robbie Gray who received many of the plaudits after his best on ground performance. Port Adelaide had many contributors at various stages of the game such as Jasper Pittard, Sam Gray, Brad Ebert and Chad Wingard. But one player whose performance slipped under the radar behind others was Hamish Hartlett. With 24 touches and 9 tackles it was an assured performance and the kind of performance Port Adelaide will be hoping is one of many more to come in the 2016 campaign and beyond.
The off-season has certainly been a massive one for Hartlett. Not only signing a contract extension that will keep him at Port Adelaide until the end of 2021, but also being elevated to vice-captain at the club. This elevation certainly confirms how highly Hartlett is valued within the four walls at Alberton with the voting process for Port Adelaide’s leadership group including club administrators, coaches and every player in the squad. Hartlett will be the sole vice-captain of the side supporting Travis Boak and after four years in the leadership group Hartlett is ready to take his football to the next level. Coach Ken Hinkley was full of praise for Hartlett and the direction his football is heading when the announcement was made “Since we really started playing what I would call ‘Port Adelaide football’ in the back half of last year, Hamish really showed the quality he can bring to our group on the field and also on the track. He has only grown further over this pre-season and the confidence the players and coaches have in him is really shown through him becoming our vice-captain”
Former Port Adelaide assistant coach Dean Laidley rated Hartlett as one of the best youngsters he had ever seen. Despite what many may have thought about Laidley’s part time role at Port Adelaide as a “skype coach” under the Matthew Primus regime, Laidley is someone who been involved at the highest level at various clubs for over 20 years. While Hartlett might not currently be considered an elite A grade player, he certainly has all the tools to get there.
So is Hartett’s career tracking in the right direction? The statistical evidence would suggest it is. Hartlett has always possessed great skills with elite kicking his biggest weapon. Drafted with pick 4 in the 2008 draft there was always going to be a high level of expectation with such an early pick. Durability has been an issue with Hartlett missing a lot of football with soft tissue injuries early in his career but the last three seasons has seen Hartlett seemingly turn the corner playing over 20 games each year and at 25 years of age his best football should be ahead of him.
The other question which may not have been answered yet is what is Hartlett’s best position? With such a damaging kick and silky skills there are benefits for Hartlett all over the ground. Across half back and time through the midfield is probably the best mix at the moment, but the ability to get forward and kick a goal is another string to his bow.
It is obvious Hamish Hartlett loves the club with his comments after he signed his contract extension and the kind of words all supporters like to hear. “This a great club with great supporters and I’m looking forward to repaying the faith the club has shown in me.” Port Adelaide will be hoping Hartlett shakes off a hamstring injury concern to play this week. Another good performance and a win in the Showdown this week against Adelaide will not only help repay the faith, but set Port Adelaide and Hartlett up for the 2016 season.