#1 In Our Hearts

With Tom Jonas moving on as Port Adelaide Football Club skipper, the easy decision would have been to make former co-captain, 2023 vice-captain and Brownlow medallist Ollie Wines captain and fellow 2023 vice-captain Darcy Byrne-Jones his deputy. Perhaps with one or two of the younger stars added to an expanded leadership group. This would have been a “safe” decision, similar to the one that saw Jonas retained as captain in 2023, despite his declining form and fitness.

These mature options were overlooked however. Perhaps in recognition of that crop’s failure to achieve the clubs stated aim of winning premierships.

The next tough decision was to choose between the younger crop of emerging leaders. The two obvious club house leaders were Zak Butters and Connor Rozee. Two exceptional young footballers with obvious leadership qualities.

Thankfully the club learnt from the catastrophic decision to elect co-captains in 2019, where it abandoned one of its most cherished traditions, angered members and avoided the very success promised by the model, with a disappointing 10th placed finish.

The bold selection of Rozee as captain and Butters as vice-captain in what football boss Chris Davies described as a “generational reset” may be seen by some as a replica of the pairing of Sam Mitchell and Luke Hodge at Hawthorn in 2008. Mitchell the mature, well spoken leader made the perfect front man for an emerging club. Leading them to a flag in 2008. Hodge, perhaps less mature and a little rougher around the edges, provided the perfect counterbalance. Taking over as captain as he matured and leading them to a three peat between 2013 and 2015. Port fans would hope that similar success looms.

Having just turned 24 when he leads Port into battle for the first game of 2024, Rozee will be one of the youngest captains in PAFC history. Only 23 year old Gavin Wanganeen, in 1997, was younger in the AFL era.

There is history with young captains at Port Adelaide though. Port Adelaide legend, war hero and subject of the “The Rover of Tobruk” Bob Quinn led Port Adelaide to a premiership in his first year as captain in 1939 having also just turned 24 at the start of the season. A feat made all the more remarkable by the fact that the 3 time premiership player was also coach that same season.

Fellow 24 year old first time skippers Russel Ebert (3 premierships as a player, 1 as captain), Geof Motley (9 premierships, 4 as captain) and Sampson “Shine” Hoskins (6 premierships) also had exemplary careers.

In the AFL era, of the young captains, only 23 year old captain Wanganeen has experienced the ultimate with an AFL flag at Port to join his flag with the “Baby Bombers”. 24 year old captains Boak and Wines will be hoping to get there before they retire. None of these 3 will have achieved the ultimate whilst still skipper.

The “generational reset” will be welcomed by many Port fans concerned that the club has not made enough changes in recent years (coach, football boss, president etc) despite failing to live up to its premiership aspirations. A reset further emphasised by the addition of Willem Drew (25), Sam Powell-Pepper (25) and Dan Houston (26) to round out the leadership group.

The Port Adelaide football club has a proud tradition of young captains, wearing the number 1, winning premierships. They should be acknowledged for making the bold decision to stick with the first two of these traditions, and held to account to the expectation of filling the third in 2024. This feat would ensure that all 4 of the captains first elected at a young age, retire with at least one flag.






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