Expectation for Por Adelaide is high heading into season 2018. Ken Hinkley and his men are expected to improve on season 2017 which saw the club finish the home and away season in fifth position before a disappointing finals exit at the hands of West Coast.
The acquisitions of Tom Rockliff, Jack Watts and Steven Motlop in particular has generated excitement in the off-season among the Port faithful who are craving some long overdue success.
While the new recruits will no doubt look to have an immediate impact there is plenty of improvement to come from within the current playing squad.
One player who will be looking to have a big season is Dougal Howard who is my pick to enjoy a career best year and cement a spot in the best 22.
Dougal the draftee
The Wagga product was drafted with pick 56 in the 2014 National Draft. List manager Jason Cripps at the time delighted with the capture.
“He's 199cm, he's got speed, he's quite aggressive in the way he plays and he can get off his man. He's a project player, but he's shown that he can potentially play a second ruck/key forward role”
Injury restricted the new draftee in his first year at Alberton but he finished the season with some solid output at SANFL level in the 11 games played.
A baptism of fire
In 2016 the key position prospect made his AFL debut in the round two showdown against Adelaide and played six games for the year before suffering an unfortunate ACL injury in round 13 against Fremantle.
The youngster mainly played a role supporting Jackson Trengove in ruck but certainly showed glimpses of his talent and flexibility in other parts of the ground.
It did not take long for ‘Doogs ’as he is affectionately known to become a fan-favourite.
The comeback trail
The 21 year-old made a successful return at SANFL level in 2017 and while it took some time to find his feet a string of solid performances kept him in the mix for AFL selection.
The most notable performance at SANFL level the round 12 clash against West Adelaide in which he booted eight goals.
Despite not playing at AFL level Port was keen to extend Howard’s Alberton tenure and in July it was announced the 21 year-old had signed a two year contract extension until the end of 2019.
Cementing a spot
Howard made his return to AFL ranks in round 21 against Collingwood and remained in the team for the rest of the year.
Finding a spot in the defensive-half he made the most of his opportunity with injury to Jack Hombsch and a suspension to Tom Jonas late in the year.
While most Power fans will want to forget the Elimination final loss to the Eagles it was memorable for Dougal Howard. Racking up 22 one-percenters (knock-ons, spoils, smothers and shepherds)
While the extra time helped pad the stats it is the most one-percenters recorded in an AFL game.
A solid finish to 2017 should give the 21 year-old the confidence he belongs at the top level and in 2018 expect Dougal Howard to flourish.