Port Adelaide must start planning for 2017 and in the process work out why 2016 has followed the disappointing path of 2015. Port Adelaide will not play finals for the second consecutive season and many issues will be put on the agenda such as game plan, coaching, drafting, trading, player development, skill level, fitness and why the mentally fragile Power cannot perform when the pressure is on.
Player delistings are never an easy subject to talk about but it is a reality that all AFL clubs have to deal with as clubs work around list lodgement dates and plan for the trade period and the draft.
So what Port Adelaide players are most at risk of leaving Alberton?
John Butcher is a bit of a cult hero at Port Adelaide but all evidence points to Butcher being delisted. Turning 25 next month Butcher has played 28 games since being drafted with pick 8 in the 2009 draft. The last three years at AFL level has seen Butcher play 3 games in 2014, 5 games in 2015 and Butcher has not played a single game this year after signing a one year contract extension last year.
While Butcher has shown some solid form at SANFL level the club obviously has minimal confidence in Butcher to perform at AFL level. Suspension to Paddy Ryder, injury to Jay Schulz and Charlie Dixon regularly playing without support and mixed form from other Port Adelaide players at AFL level has still not been enough for Butcher to get a look in as a key forward in the first 13 games.
The defender made his AFL debut in 2014 playing 1 game and added to his tally last season playing 8 games. There are still some questions on where Tom Clurey is best suited, either playing as a key defender or whether his aerobic ability can allow him to play further up the ground. Clurey has had his injury issues at Port Adelaide and while all reports suggested a great pre-season for Clurey he sustained a foot injury on the eve of the season which has derailed his 2016 season.
Clurey has returned to football at SANFL level but his output has not been good enough to earn an AFL recall thus far. Still only 22 years of age Clurey did sign a 2 year deal last season but after four seasons at the club he may feel a change of environment might be the best thing to reignite his AFL career if he fails to play any AFL football this season.
Jay Schulz is an absolute fan favourite at Port Adelaide and with everything he has given the club it seems extremely harsh to be talking about Schulz and possibly being delisted in the same sentence. But Port Adelaide did have their concerns on Schulz’s long term viability and only gave Schulz a one year contract at the end of 2015 when Schulz and his management were pushing for two.
The fact Schulz is 31 years old and has played 1 AFL game for the year is an equation that simply puts Schulz at risk. Schulz made his return to football by kicking 2 goals for the Port Magpies last Saturday after a long lay-off but Schulz will need to play some games in the back half of the year and have an impact to earn a new contract.
The full back has been a main stay in the Port Adelaide team for a long time. The 29 year old has played 167 games and certainly you would think Carilile is safe from the axe especially given he has one year left to run on his contract. Currently recovering from a knee injury it is doubtful that Carlile will play again this season which will leave a return of 2 games for the season.
Carlile has generally had a good run with injury throughout his career but injury last year also limited Carlile to 10 games so the club may have some doubts on Carlile’s future. Jack Hombsch is certainly the most highly rated key defender at the club and Logan Austin is currently getting a taste at AFL level and has looked assured for the most part. Is Alipate Carlile still in the best 22 next season and beyond?
Paul Stewart is certainly an interesting case. Many supporters would not have had Stewart in the best 22 if everyone was fit and available but the ability to play a number of roles as a utility has possibly saved Stewart from the axe up until now.
It is Stewart’s tenth season at the club and if he remains in the side will notch up his 100th game shortly in what has been a long journey. The fact Stewart is out of contract at season’s end puts him at risk but he has remained in the AFL side since round 5 and if Stewart ends up playing most the season at AFL level it will probably earn him a new deal.
Certainly the talent of Sam Colquhoun is not something that is up for debate. Making his debut in 2013 as a teenager he had a dream debut playing 10 games and playing in two finals matches in his first year. Colquhoun was playing good football in 2014 across half back and midfield at SANFL level before a ruptured ACL ended his season. Last year saw Colquhoun break back into the Power side to play six games along with solid form at SANFL level as he looked to establish himself after a lengthy absence.
Colquhoun has not played an AFL game so far in 2016 and like others is vulnerable as he is out of contract at the end of the season. It is expected however the club will offer Colquhoun a new deal.
How much change is required?
Port Adelaide will need to decide if they make the minimum changes mandated and put faith in the current squad by offering new deals or whether they make wholesale changes. Does the club legitimately feel they are close to a Premiership with the current group?
List management is certainly a complex issue. In addition to the above Port Adelaide will need to make decisions on rookie listed players Cameron Hewett, Dan Houston, Nathan Krakouer and Kane Mitchell . Angus Monfries is also another complex issue as he is out of contract but the reports in the last week are certainly looking more positive that Monfries will be offered a one year deal.
Some members of the squad are currently signed on long term contracts which in itself provides its own challenges if the club wanted to move any of them on. When the team is not winning then almost all players come in for some criticism. Even star players at the club have not been immune to this in 2016. Port Adelaide currently have a lot of players such as Cam O’Shea and Matthew Lobbe who seem to divide opinion among supporters and whether Port Adelaide are better of keeping them or looking to move them on. Can Sam Gray and Jake Neade become consistent AFL players?
Port Adelaide was a kick away from Grand Final in 2014, two years later and it seems Port Adelaide is trending in the wrong direction. Many factors will be examined and that includes the current playing list. Who is untouchable? Who is on their last chance in 2017? Who should stay and who should go?
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