Footy is a complex sport to analyse with so many variables moving almost chaotically at times. This means it can be tricky to separate the wheat from the chaff as far as usable data. Port Adelaide is an even more complex team to analyse, two years of moving in an upward trajectory, destined for greatness, only to crash back down to mid table mediocrity. As our first JLT game comes around supporters are going to look to game style, structures and also players to determine what 2017 holds for Port. Of these factors personnel is the most important. The two players to watch in this preseason, who could be the difference between missing finals and winning finals, are Jared Polec and Matthew White.
The reasoning for this is simple, in 2014 Port Adelaide were the ‘run and gun’ team, play on at all costs, get the ball from Defensive to Offensive 50 using break neck speed and penetrating kicks before teams could set up properly. No two players embodied this mantra more than Matthew White and Jared Polec. In the two years following this both Polec and White have both had issues relating to long term injuries. To understand the significance of these players it is necessary to recount their respective journeys at Port Adelaide.
Jared Polec provided great run and carry in 2014 using his penetrating kick to split zones and provide great rebound for Port. His best game for the season was round 7 against GWS where he was able to use his class and skill up forward to kick three goals, rack up 30 touches around the ground using his pace to provide great rebound for Port.
This play highlights Polec’s pace, decision making and ability to execute a relatively high risk kick.
Unfortunately in 2015 he injured his navicular and whilst he played through some pain in the first 5 rounds, he missed the rest of the season. 2016 was a rough return for Polly, he was dropped twice due to lack of defensive pressure, notably in round 12 against the Bulldogs where he allowed Jake Stringer to start on a wing and roam unmarked into the centre square, run forward and kick a very important goal late in the game. Polec was dropped for the second time following this game and did not return until round 18. His last 3 games of the season showed glimpses of his 2014 form and the fact that he had put the injury behind him.
Matthew White provided great run and carry in 2014, using his blistering pace and neat inside 50 kicks to catch the opposition defence unaware. In 2015 he started slow however by round 10 he was getting right back to his 2014 form. In round 11 he tore his hamstring in the second term against the Cats and did not return until round 17. In that time Port Adelaide went 1-4 against the opposition including a shock 4 point loss to Carlton. He returned against Essendon and looked a little off the pace, however by round 20 he looked back to his best and finished the season well.
Matthew White’s aggression, willingness to take on opponents and ability to spot up an inside 50 target are on show here.
In 2016 White injured his pectoral muscle early in round 1 and did not return to AFL for the rest of the season.
Now it’s all well and good to say the most outside players in a slingshot rebounding side are the most important, but where is the justification, where is the data? See below a table which outlines the Wins and Losses in Port’s last 3 seasons.
|Player Combination||Wins||Losses||Win Percentage||Total Games|
|White + Polec||18||8||69%||26|
|One of White or Polec||17||16||52%||33|
The numbers are blindingly obvious, not only are both White and Polec really important to Port Adelaide’s success, both of them playing in the same team is a formidable combination.
Unfortunately the complication with this is the fact that Matthew White is getting on with age and Port Adelaide have stated he will be ‘a week to week proposition’ after suffering a calf strain. If that means we can still get a good 15-18 games out of him this year, statistically we stand a good chance of finals, however here’s to hoping the coaching staff don’t have very many eggs in the basket that relies on a soon-to-be 30 year old’s calf coming good.