Inconsistency dogged Port Adelaide's 2016 season
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Port Adelaide went backwards in 2016, two massive losses in the first four rounds derailing their season before it had a chance to get going. Winnable games were lost and leads squandered as the Power consistently failed to produce sustained four-quarter efforts. Injuries took their toll, and the WADA suspensions of Angus Monfries and Paddy Ryder hurt, but too many players had patchy seasons as they struggled to execute coach Ken Hinkley's game plan, with their skills frequently below AFL standards.
There are some questions about Port's mental toughness after they failed to defend late leads on multiple occasions, and they were unable to deliver in big games – the Kangaroos were the only top-eight team they rolled. Pre-season talk of a return to finals action proved to be way off the mark, their 10 wins for the season two fewer than 2015, and their finishing position of 10th on the ladder one spot lower than last year's ninth.
Six games that shaped Port Adelaide's season
Round 4: GWS 22.19 (151) d Port Adelaide 9.11 (65)
Hinkley rated this alongside the club's huge Showdown loss to Adelaide in round two as the worst he'd suffered as coach since joining the Power in 2013. He lamented his side's "embarrassing" performance in the 86-point loss as the Giants produced their highest score and winning margin since joining the competition. Hinkley criticised Port's unwillingness to run out the game once they had fallen behind – "We haven't been able to play hard enough and strong enough for long enough when it goes against us," he said – as those tipping big things from the Power in 2016 were forced to revise their calls just four games into the season.
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Round 8: Carlton 14.9 (93) d Port Adelaide 13.13 (91)
A genuine low point in a year that yielded few positives, Port's inability to again close out a contest saw them cough up a 17-point last-quarter lead to lose to an injury-depleted Blues outfit. The Power had been in front for most of the game but could not put Carlton away, who kept hanging on despite losing Levi Casboult in the opening minutes and Patrick Cripps, Lachie Plowman, Ciaran Byrne and Matthew Kreuzer also receiving attention from medical staff. Hinkley could not conceal his disappointment, saying it was "a big game to lose" as Port slumped to a 4-4 record.
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Round 11: Port Adelaide 19.11 (125) d Collingwood 7.16 (58)
The Power followed their thumping of Melbourne in round 10 with a 67-point demolition of the Pies, leaving the South Australian club just outside the eight with signs they may finally be turning their season around. Port completely carved up the Collingwood defence, with Jake Neade and Aaron Young both kicking four goals and Chad Wingard slotting three. But it was the best-on-ground Jarman Impey who gave the Pies the most headaches, racking up 22 disposals and six inside 50s. This would prove to be the highlight of Port's season, however, with just four wins coming from the final 12 rounds.
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Round 13: Fremantle 12.14 (86) d Port Adelaide 9.15 (69)
The team's unwillingness to play hard, tough footy right up until the final siren against cost them here as the Dockers kicked the last four goals to win a game the Power could not afford to lose. Port's poor disposal proved costly, as they blew three gettable chances in the third quarter while trying to extend their slender lead. A last-quarter return of three points, against Freo's 1.5, was a terrible return from a team desperately trying to stay in touch with the top eight. Wingard kicked three goals in his 100th game (but also made some bad errors) while Brad Ebert provided some rare support with 28 touches.
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Round 17: Port Adelaide 16.9 (105) d North Melbourne 10.17 (77)
Port played some of their best footy of the season to date in their six-goals-to-nil opening quarter and were never headed from there as they piled more pressure on an increasingly ordinary Kangaroos outfit. The Power had winners everywhere, as Robbie Gray, Wingard, Travis Boak, Justin Westhoff and Jay Schulz all ran hot to keep their slim finals chances alive. The only downside to the win was an ankle injury to key forward Charlie Dixon.
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Round 19: Port Adelaide 25.23 (173) d Brisbane 11.13 (79)
The Power weren't the only side to smash the Lions in 2016, but it was the their ruthlessness – a quality lacking for most of their season – in disposing of their lacklustre opponents that most impressed. Wingard kicked a bag of five, John Butcher booted four and took 11 marks in just his second game of the season, and Ollie Wines and Gray each amassed more than 30 possessions as Port went inside 50 a remarkable 77 times. Their wayward kicking was the only thing keeping the margin below 100 points.
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Can Port Adelaide find some consistency in 2017? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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