• Jason Regan

Reality bites for Port Adelaide finals failure

Choke artists, pretenders, imposters, failures. These are just some of the words used by commentators in summing up Port Adelaide’s inglorious exit from the 2021 finals series on Saturday evening.

Travis Boak looks to the heavens for answers to Ports finals woes.

In front of a stunned home crowd who were trying to digest what they had just witnessed, a dejected Port Adelaide playing group trudged from the Adelaide Oval turf wondering how it all went so wrong. Coach Ken Hinkley described Port Adelaide’s road to Saturday evenings Preliminary Final as “the perfect build-up”. The internal rhetoric in the lead up to the game was uber positive.

Ports playing group was healthy, well-rested and well prepared ahead of the match. They were taking on a travel-weary and injury-depleted Western Bulldogs. The Football world was expecting Port to dish out a monumental beat down. But it was evident in the first minute of the match that this wasn’t going to be the cakewalk the Power faithful had anticipated. Ten minutes later and the game was all but over.

Aaron Naughton laps up the adulation of dogs fans post-game

It’s not the first time Port Adelaide have been exposed during a finals campaign. Port Adelaide’s SANFL finals legacy is the stuff of legend and rightly a source of immense pride for their supporters. However, every era is different, and nothing lasts forever. The humbling reality that Port Adelaide must come to terms with is the club has a below-average finals record in the AFL. History doesn’t lie, and Port Adelaide’s AFL finals record speaks for itself.

Saturday night was Port Adelaide’s 27th AFL finals match since their entry to the competition in 1997. It has lost 14 of those finals matches with a finals win percentage of just 48.1%. To put that into perspective, Port Adelaide ranks 12th overall for finals win percentage in the AFL era. It’s probably unfair to rank Port Adelaide against established clubs for total wins in the AFL era given they only entered the competition in 1997. But, for the record, its 13 finals victories ranks 12th overall for finals victories in the AFL era.

Port Adelaide players leave the field after their 2020 preliminary final loss to Richmond

However, it’s not all bad news.

Port Adelaide has reached the preliminary final stage 7 times in their 25-season history. Only 7 clubs have played in more preliminary finals in the AFL era. Port’s preliminary final strike rate (prelims reached divided by the number of seasons in the competition) sits at 28% which is ranked 4th overall in the AFL era. Only Geelong, North Melbourne and Collingwood have a better strike rate. Reaching the preliminary final stage is an impressive achievement in any year and Port Adelaide fans have been able to dream of a possible Grand Final berth more than once every four seasons.

In 2004 Port Adelaide last tasted AFL Premiership success, their only AFL Premiership.

This is where things turn ugly for Port fans. Those 7 preliminary final appearances have netted just two wins. Port Adelaide’s preliminary final win percentage is just 28.6% and sees them ranked a pitiful 16th overall. In terms of Grand Final appearances only Fremantle, Greater Western Sydney and the Gold Coast have played in fewer Grand Finals than Port Adelaide. Their 1 premiership has Port ranked 11th overall in the AFL Premiership tally. These stats don’t scream finals powerhouse.

As much as these stats are sure to make Crows supporters smile, they needn’t get too cocky. Adelaide’s finals record stands at 18 wins and 18 losses. The Crows finals win ratio of 50% has them tied for 8th overall with West Coast and Geelong who have both had more finals wins. The Crows have also made the Preliminary Final 7 times for just 3 wins. Adelaide’s Preliminary Final win ratio sits at 42.8%, ranked 12th overall in the AFL era.

Richmond ended the Crows Premiership dream in 2017 on Grand Final day

It’s also worth noting both Port Adelaide and the Adelaide Crows have poor records in converting home preliminary finals into Grand Final berths. Port Adelaide have played 4 of their 7 preliminary finals in Adelaide for a return of 2 wins and 2 losses. Both wins were played at Football Park meaning Port Adelaide has never won a Preliminary final at Adelaide Oval.

Incredibly, the Adelaide Crows have only played two of their 7 preliminary finals in Adelaide for 1 win and 1 loss. Although the sample size is small, the stats show any Adelaide team hosting a preliminary final is only a 50% chance of advancing to a Grand Final. In contrast, Sydney’s home preliminary final record is 4 wins from 5 matches. West Coast owns a perfect 4-0 record in preliminary finals played in Perth.

The Eagles are preliminary final perfect in Perth. In 2018 they destroyed Melbourne on route to their 4th Flag

Both South Australian clubs have some soul searching to do regarding their finals record. However, it is Port Adelaide that is firmly under the microscope given its proud history. You can not claim to be the most successful club in Australia and accept the current record. If the Port Adelaide legacy and creed means all the club says it means, then this record must be corrected. If it isn’t corrected quickly then the true believers may well stop believing.




+ includes the Brisbane Bears 1995 and 1996 finals series statistics

*Port Adelaide entered the AFL competition in 1997

**Fremantle entered the AFL competition in 1995

***GWS entered the AFL competition in 2012.