21st Mar 2012
Season Preview: Magpies set to fly
By Matt Agius
Port Adelaide enters the 2012 SANFL ‘be active’ League Premiership energised and fully prepared to fight its way back into the top five.
The Magpies have never finished outside of the finals for four years in a row, but with the club’s previous finals appearance in 2008, the Magpies are looking forward to leaving that scenario purely a hypothetical.
The pre-season has been a positive one for the Magpies, with senior coach Tony Bamford impressed by the way his charges have improved in their critical skills across the summer.
The Magpies also ended undefeated in their pre-season trial games against West Adelaide, Central District and Glenelg. Despite this, Bamford isn’t using Port Adelaide’s trial game form as a measuring stick for the side’s potential.
“We haven’t evaluated our pre-season based on the three trials – that would be unfair and inaccurate to base four months work on three games,” he said.
“We’ve based our pre-season on have we got better on the areas we’ve identified last year when we did our season review. We believe that we have and so far we’ve showing in games that we’ve got better in terms of our skill efficiency, our ability to maintain possession and our ability to score when we go inside fifty.
“Purely from a coaching perspective, we’ve uncovered some players who fit into that game plan really well and obviously the recruits make a big difference. We’re really pleased and have certainly been happy with what the boys have done.”
The Magpies have recruited well in the summer - drawing in much needed resources in the areas of midfield strength and forward firepower. Ryan McKenzie (North Ballarat) and Callum Wilson (West Coast Eagles) have impressed during the pre-season and boosted stocks in their respective thirds. They’re joined by Ben Haren (Sydney) and James Brain (Sydney Reserves) as well as former Power-listed Adam Cockshell and current Port Adelaide AFL player Brendon Ah Chee.
These names have already filled the void left by the likes of retired players Kristian DePasquale and Matt Lokan whose experience was a handy asset for the Magpies as they clawed their way back up the ladder last year.
“They’ve (new recruits) fitted in perfectly - they can all play, that’s why we’ve recruited them and to complement their ability, they’re also good fellas,” said Bamford.
“The existing playing group has embraced them with open arms and that’s a testament to the six recruits. So from that perspective we think we’ve done really well. Neil Rawlings and Neville Thiele need to be patted on the back because they’re the guys that did most of the leg-work recruiting those fellas.”
Port Adelaide plays four of last year’s finalists in its first five SANFL matches. Despite positive predictions from local media, Bamford would not be drawn on where he expects the Magpies to finish in 2012, rather taking a broader approach – he wants to play finals and the side does, too.
“We’re not sitting here in March saying we’re going to finish first, second, third, fourth or fifth before we’ve even played a game for points.”
“We are saying is that we aim to play finals and three quarters of the way through the season we’ll have a much clearer picture.
“At the moment all focus is just on winning enough games to get into that finals action. We’ve set ourselves to play finals for the first time in three years and it’s a goal we believe we can achieve.
“Playing those top five teams early is good because you need to find out where you’re at and the earlier you can do that, I think the better chance we have of identifying how far we can go.
“I’m excited by the fact that we get to face the top teams so early in the year because we’ll know exactly where we stand and have a better chance of identifying how far we can go.”
Bamford also believes that the third year players are the ones to watch in 2012, saying that their improvement will carry the success of the black and white with further this year.
“We’re expecting continued improvement and development from guys who’ve been in our League program for around two seasons.
“Guys who need to rapidly take the next step up - Sam Gray, Justin Hoskin, Nick Madden, Daniel Kulikowski, Matthew Rose, Corey Beard – all these guys who have tasted it, but haven’t clocked over 50 games of League footy.
“To be a consistent SANFL high-performer you have to be in the 50-100 game bracket and the best sides have a nucleus of players around that mark.”
With the solid off-season recruiting and an increased coaching panel, Bamford’s quest to put the black and white back on the brewery chimney has received a massive boost – with the foundations set for solid long-term development.
Unlucky to miss the major round last year with a final round loss to the eventual champions, the Magpies have the opportunity to get one back on the Eagles when they face the reigning premier under lights at Thebarton Oval in Round 1.
The club’s passionate supporters will also have plenty of opportunity to see the League’s most successful club in action at home – with 10 games at Alberton Oval this year.
Port Adelaide SANFL coverage will continue throughout the season as we track our side’s progress on social media and on our website at www.portmagpies.com.au.
2012 Port Adelaide SANFL Season – The Facts
Coach: Tony Bamford
Captain: James Meiklejohn
Vice Captains: Steven Summerton, Mark Dolling, Luke Slattery
In: Brendon Ah Chee (Port Adelaide AFL, mini draft), James Brain (Sydney Reserves), Adam Cockshell (South Adelaide), Ben Haren (Sydney), Ryan McKenzie (North Ballarat), Callum Wilson (West Coast Eagles).
Out: Michael Clinch (North Adelaide), Kristian DePasquale (Ret), Kerren Hall (North Adelaide), Shane Harris (Belconnen), Matthew Lokan (Ret), Terry Milera (St Kilda), Xavier Watson (South Adelaide).
Rd 1. WWT – Thebarton (N)
Rd 2. Sturt – Unley
Foxtel. Subiaco – AAMI
Rd 4. Norwood – Alberton
Rd 5. Central – Alberton
Rd 6. South – Noarlunga
Rd 7. West – Richmond
Rd 8. North – Alberton
Rd 9. Glenelg – Glenelg (N)
Rd 10. Foxtel/Bye
Rd 11. South – Alberton
Rd 12. Central – Elizabeth
Rd 13. WWT – Alberton
Rd 14. West – Alberton
Rd 15. Foxtel/Bye
Rd 16. North – Prospect
Rd 17. Central – Alberton
Rd 18. Norwood – Parade (N)
Rd 19. Foxtel/Bye
Rd 20. Glenelg – Alberton
Rd 21. WWT – Woodville
Rd 22. North – Prospect
Rd 23. West – Alberton
Rd 24. Sturt – Alberton