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Footy Fix: how far can Carlton go?

Rohan Connolly dissects the two games in the second week of finals as Geelong takes on Port Adelaide and Carlton faces off against Sydney.

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You should always talk to those who know. A year ago, when most of us thought Port Adelaide was a shambles, I spoke to Matt Rendell. The former Fitzroy and Brisbane Bears ruckman was a thinker when he played, an astute assistant coach at various AFL clubs and has made a name as one of the country’s leading recruiters.

He works for Collingwood, but before that he helped set up the Adelaide list with the likes of Patrick Dangerfield, Rory Sloane and Taylor Walker.

Twelve months ago, he insisted there was plenty of quality and young talent at Port Adelaide. He stressed it just needed to be nurtured. And so it was. Some new coaches, headed by Ken Hinkley and Alan Richardson, supported by one of the world’s leading fitness conditioners in Darren Burgess, have done a fine job in realising that potential.

Superstar: Chad Wingard.

Superstar: Chad Wingard. Photo: Getty Images

Rendell suggested I have a look at the number of players on Port Adelaide’s list who were first-round draft picks. To be a first-round selection doesn’t guarantee success, but it does mean there is talent, and if that is matched by hard work and good coaching, then the chances of success are high.

Playing on Friday night for Port are these first-round picks. They are well worth watching.

TRAVIS BOAK
The first-year captain earned enormous respect late last year when he said ‘‘no’’ to Geelong. Boak felt an obligation to the club that drafted him seven years ago as an 18-year-old. He has led by example on and off the field and is now rated one of the game’s elite midfielders.

ANGUS MONFRIES
The half-forward made his debut for Essendon in 2005 and gave it 150 games and 165 goals. Monfries came home to Adelaide this year to add experience and goalkicking power to a young group. He has done that, averaging close to two goals a game.

BRAD EBERT
A famous Port Adelaide name, Ebert  was drafted by West Coast six years ago. After four years he came home and was runner-up in the 2012 best and fairest. He has followed up with another fine season in the midfield. Has not missed a game in his two years at Port, and has established himself as one of the team’s leaders.

HAMISH HARTLETT
Taken at No.4 in the 2008 draft, injuries and suspension have restricted Hartlett’s games output. But he is good – very good. The strong midfielder has speed to burn, is a thumping long kick and has a touch of mongrel in him. He is fast becoming one of the best midfielders in the AFL.

OLLIE WINES
This teenager from Echuca has been most impressive in his first year. Hinkley had enough confidence to select him in round one and he hasn’t missed a game.  Wines has  earned the respect of his teammates and the football world in a very short time with his courageous, no-nonsense attack on the ball. Strong-bodied and smart around the goals, he will develop quickly into a class midfielder.

CHAD WINGARD
Wow! This 20-year-old, who is in just his second season at Port, is amazing. Quick, smart, left-sided. Wingard is special. He has a big bag of tricks, reads the play to perfection, is balanced, cool and can play back, mid or forward. He is set to become one of the superstars of the AFL.

MATTHEW LOBBE
Like a lot of young ruckmen, it has been a slow progression for the 24-year-old. Lobbe has played just 42 games in his first four seasons but, importantly, 20 of them have been this season. Having to single-handedly carry the ruck position has been tough, but vital for his confidence and development. Mentored by premiership ruckman Shaun Rehn, he will make it hard for the Cats on Friday night.

JAY SCHULZ
Schulz has had a roller-coaster ride in his 11-year AFL career. He arrived at Richmond as a teenager, and in seven seasons played just 70 games. It wasn’t easy playing second fiddle to  Matthew Richardson, as little ball was directed Schulz’s way. Now, in his fourth season at Port, he has chalked up 70 games and kicked 153 goals. In three of those seasons, he has been Port’s leading goalkicker. A strong one-grab mark and accurate kick, his return home to Adelaide has seen his career blossom.

JASPER PITTARD
The wiry 22 year-old is fast becoming a crucial part of Hinkley’s plans. An excellent overhead mark, Pittard has been encouraged to attack the ball, take intercept marks and back his dash to run hard into attack.