The Big Games

Fos Williams famously said “the other 17 (minor round games), unless we can make this one (the grand final) a certainty, don’t mean a thing!” 

He and John (Jack) Cahill built a legacy at Port Adelaide built around turning up in the big games, against the big opponents. They built their list and their game plans around such games. They made match day selections in the same way. And the results? Well, they speak for themselves. 

What would he think of Ken Hinkley’s Port Adelaide?

The modern Port Adelaide love to talk about “winning seasons”. Ollie Wines did so on the dias accepting his Brownlow medal, after bowing out in another disappointing finals campaign care of a 71 point thumping from a banged up Western Bulldogs. A team that went on to lose the grand final by 74. 

“It was still a successful year in terms of win/loss” he said. 

I think we know what Fos and Jack would think of this. They only counted the wins that really mattered. 

As Damien Barrett pointed out in changing doors this week of Ken Hinkley’s 12 years in charge he has never had a “winning season” against top 4 teams and only once had a “winning season” against top 8 teams. I doubt Fos or Jack would consider any one of those 12 seasons “winning seasons”. Even allowing for the fact that they now compete on a national stage. 

And after 12 years of deja vu, even the interstate commentators, who rarely take notice of Port Adelaide and certainly have less expectations of them than the Port faithful, are starting to wonder. 

After another straight sets finals disappearance in 2023 it was Barrett again who stated that “clearly, the Power didn’t actually believe they could reach the last four. Insipid would be too strong. I’ll settle on highly disappointing”

And given a 22% winning record against top 4 teams over Hinkley’s tenure, and the fact that 3 such wins in a row are required to win a premiership, the lack of belief is perhaps not surprising. In fact if you do the maths on winning 3 of those games in a row, with a 22% win rate, it works out to a roughly 2% chance of winning a flag, even after finishing in the top 4 at the end of the minor round. 

Once again this is not new. We spoke about it at the end of 2023 in our article “the games that mean a thing”. 

Other teams know it too. Even when Port jumped to a 31 point lead against Collingwood last week Steele Sidebottom was not intimidated. 

“We talked about, our pressure was going to bring them undone at times and just being able to bring it for longer. And that’s what we did in that 2nd half and we were able to run away with it quite convincingly. If we were able to bring it, then we thought we might be able to bring them undone yeah”. 

Jimmy Bartel damningly stated that “Everyone was just looking after their own backyard, they got torched for it, and they got what they deserved.”

The Port players and hierarchy should be very concerned to hear their team talked about in this way. The old Port would have been. 

John Cahill said that when he coached he would ”fear failure that I’ll let supporters down”. 

Club great Geoff Motley said it was “It was simple. The fear of losing. We played on the basis that we could not possibly let down the followers of the Port Adelaide Football Club – the greatest gift we could give them was a premiership.”

Current club President David Koch has been quoted as saying “We don’t want players who are living their dream just by playing AFL footy, we want players who want to win a premiership. If they’re not prepared… they’re not players that we want”.

Let’s hope this thinking extends to the coaches, board members and presidents, because as previously stated it takes 3 wins in a row against top 4 quality teams to win a flag. 






One response to “The Big Games”

  1. Nick R Avatar
    Nick R

    Hit the nail on the head again.

    If we have such a poor record against top 4 sides, then how are we indeed supposed to win 3 in a row against them in September, if 5th to 8th sides don’t get pass the semi final weekend.

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