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Geelong and Port Adelaide followed very different paths after 2007

Victors: Geelong players celebrate their 2007 AFL grand final win.

Victors: Geelong players celebrate their 2007 AFL grand final win. Photo: Joe Armao

Forks in the road of football history don’t come a lot sharper than those which followed the events of AFL grand final day in 2007.

In Geelong against Port Adelaide, the premiership play-off pitted an establishment club, which had gone without a flag for 44 long years, against one just 10 years old but which had already reached the summit just three seasons earlier.

But what should have been an epic battle instead became a monumental mismatch, one which would subsequently send the Cats and the Power along two very different paths. They are roads which, with the two sides meeting on Sunday as the top two teams on the AFL ladder, have taken seven years to intersect once again.

For Geelong, the premiership drought broken, grand final day 2007 would be the heralding of the club’s greatest era, one still as strong as ever. The Cats have won three flags over their magnificent journey, further successes coming in 2009 and 2011. They’ve played in four grand finals, and have finished first, second or third every season bar one.

But grand final day 2007 was a disaster for Port. It would be thrashed by a record grand final margin of 119 points. It would manage two miserable goals for the entire second half. Nor would there be any redemption in 2008. The Power would win just seven games for a dismal finish of 13th. And things would get even worse.

Midway through 2010, Port Adelaide sacked coach Mark Williams. Yet by the end of 2011, under a favourite son in Matthew Primus, it had won just three games, finishing above only the debutant Gold Coast franchise.

By the time 2012 had concluded, Primus, too, had been sacked and Port Adelaide was a rabble, beset not only by poor performance, but financial woes, poor attendances and administrative chaos.

Geelong has a staggering winning percentage of 80.4 per cent since its 2007 triumph, having won 123 of 153 matches. Football manager Neil Balme doesn’t hesitate when asked if he would have believed back then that things would still be going so well now.

''Jesus, no. I mean you always hope that, but reality tells you you’d probably be kidding yourself,'' he says. There’s been no secret formula, though, he adds. Just hard work, good coaching and good recruiting. ''I think we all realised it was going to be difficult to stay up, but we were very committed to not going backwards.''

Which in statistical terms, is exactly what happened to Port after the 2007 grand final. Its winning percentage of 36.7 since is in stark contrast to the Cats, a figure which at least has risen significantly over the past season-and-a-bit under Ken Hinkley, its revival one of the great football stories.

Yet it’s one, argues Port football manager Peter Rohde, who sat in the coaching box the day of that excruciating mauling, that has been a long time in the making. In some respects, as far back as 2007, when the Power line-up that made the big dance was seen by the club more as one enjoying a ''last hurrah'' than the basis of its future.

''We probably ended up dipping a lot lower than we thought we would, but at the end of 2007, we looked at our list and knew we had to start blooding a lot of younger players,'' he says. ''Obviously, the way we lost the grand final was a part of it. We were arguably the second-best team in the competition, but when you looked at it, our key players were ageing. We’d had a good year based on [Warren] Tredrea, Chad Cornes, Peter Burgoyne, Brendon Lade and these guys who were getting towards the ends of their careers.

''We had Travis Boak and Justin Westhoff, and Robbie Gray had played a few games, but they weren’t key players. Whereas you looked at Geelong and apart from Matthew Scarlett, they really won on the back of Ablett, Bartel, Enright, Corey, Johnson, Mackie ... that was the real scary bit, that they were still quite young.''

The 2014 lists support Rohde’s argument. There’s still seven of that 2007 Geelong team there – Joel Selwood, Jimmy Bartel, Corey Enright, Steve Johnson, James Kelly, Andrew Mackie and Mathew Stokes. Port has five – then greenhorns in Boak, Westhoff and Tom Logan, along with veterans now in Dom Cassisi and Kane Cornes.

But the talent supplementing that group continues to grow. After earlier drafts delivered the likes of Hamish Hartlett and Jasper Pittard, the last three national drafts have seen Port pick up potential superstars in Chad Wingard and Ollie Wines.

The Power has also been able to pick the eyes out of other clubs' high draft picks, Brad Ebert, Angus Monfries and Jared Polec all coming from previous AFL homes, having been originally taken with first-round selections.

Port Adelaide has turned over far more players than have the Cats over the past seven years in the search for a winning formula. A total of 51 new players have represented the Power at senior level since that losing 2007 grand final, Geelong’s total only 36, half-a-dozen of whom have already become premiership players.

That, says Balme, is due in no small part to list manager Stephen Wells and his recruiting team, plus the work of an army of assistants beyond senior men Mark Thompson then Chris Scott, Hinkley himself one of them.

''We’ve been lucky to have people like Kenny, Brendan McCartney, Brenton Sanderson and Leigh Tudor. They’ve all been very good teaching and development coaches.''

Indeed, Hinkley’s capacity to get through to his younger charges at his new club with a list the Power insisted was better than its dismal results prior to last season indicated, does beg the question: was Port Adelaide so scarred by the 2007 grand final thrashing it sent the team and a club into a spiral from which it would take years to recover?

Rohde isn’t as convinced as others, but concedes: ''If you look back at the history, it’s hard to argue there wasn’t some scarring.'' Perversely, however, the extent of Geelong’s dominance in the '07 premiership decider did serve as a handy example to the side it beat up on about how to build a list.

''We lost a lot of players from when we won the premiership in 2004 to about 2010. Over the next few years we’re not going to lose nearly as many through age and retirement,'' says Rohde. ''We think we have a core group which we’ll get 100 games into, and which will stay together for a few years, which, if you look at the Geelong model, is the way you want to do it.''

Time will tell whether Port Adelaide, after some major stumbles along the way, now has the group, and in Hinkley the coach, who can give it not just another fleeting grand final appearance, but a sustained shot at success.

In the meantime, the paths of the Power and Geelong having collided once more, Sunday’s clash between the top two teams represents a wonderful litmus test of just how far Hinkley’s side still has to go.

''We’re really looking forward to it,'' says Rohde. ''First versus second at Adelaide Oval in the first six weeks of the season is more than we could have dreamed for from a PR and team point of view. We realise we’re still a fair way behind Geelong in lots of areas, so if we can perform well against them, it’s another step along the path. Probably 12 months ago, we were a bit daunted by these sorts of challenges, but to develop and improve, these are the games you have to play in, do well and eventually win.''

Even victory, of course, can’t change what happened back in 2007, but having plumbed the depths since that horrible afternoon, Port Adelaide would at least be able to boast that it’s back playing with the big boys again.

AFL 2015

Round 1
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
CAR 78 vs RIC 105 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115 vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72 vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74 vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97 vs WCE 87 Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78 vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140 vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75 vs PTA 68 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123 vs GEE 61 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131 vs CAR 62 Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66 vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101 vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63 vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76 vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44 vs SYD 92 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60 vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78 vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133 vs BRI 51 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140 vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84 vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80 vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111 vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105 vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58 vs RIC 137 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127 vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105 vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81 vs FRE 111 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51 vs MEL 83 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81 vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49 vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119 vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99 vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74 vs SYD 60 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 65 vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67 vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125 vs ADE 68 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45 vs COL 120 Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 76 vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73 vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118 vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70 vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120 vs GWS 33 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 50 vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80 vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91 vs PTA 115 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL 59 vs GEE 100 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 109 vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87 vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108 vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78 vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50 vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80 vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75 vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68 vs WCE 78 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82 vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119 vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155 vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57 vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120 vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135 vs GCF 43 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU 88 vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105 vs COL 100 Report Stats
BRI 102 vs PTA 65 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140 vs CAR 63 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 78 vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108 vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63 vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69 vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115 vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136 vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103 vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43 vs RIC 76 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 122 vs CAR 62 Report Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW 93 vs GCF 40 Report Stats
MEL 54 vs PTA 115 Report Stats
WBU 113 vs GWS 68 Report Stats
RIC 72 vs ESS 59 Report Stats
ADE 57 vs FRE 68 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 86 vs STK 108 Report Stats
COL 112 vs NTH 95 Report Stats
WCE 120 vs GEE 64 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs ADE 13:40MCG
GCF vs SYD 16:35MS
ESS vs GEE 19:20ES
PTA vs WBU 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS vs BRI 13:10Spotless Stadium
NTH vs WCE 15:20BA
STK vs HAW 16:40ES
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF vs FRE 13:40MS
WCE vs ESS 16:35Domain Stadium
NTH vs SYD 19:20ES
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs GWS 13:10MCG
STK vs MEL 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC vs WCE 19:50MCG
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs PTA 13:40MCG
GWS vs NTH 16:35Spotless Stadium
WBU vs BRI 19:20ES
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE vs MEL 15:20SS
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE vs COL 20:10Domain Stadium
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs RIC 19:50SCG
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs ESS 13:40MCG
BRI vs ADE 16:35G
STK vs WBU 19:20ES
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR vs GCF 15:20ES
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PTA 19:20SCG
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL vs HAW 19:50MCG
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GWS 13:40MCG
GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
WBU vs CAR 19:20ES
MEL vs WCE 19:40TIO
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs STK 13:10ES
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE vs BRI 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs COL 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs CAR 19:50MCG
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs MEL 13:40MCG
WBU vs GCF 16:35CAZ
NTH vs GEE 19:20ES
WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs STK 13:10Spotless Stadium
HAW vs FRE 15:20AS
BRI vs SYD 16:40G
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH vs ESS 19:50ES
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs WBU 13:45SS
GCF vs GWS 14:10MS
COL vs WCE 16:35ES
SYD vs HAW 19:20ANZ
FRE vs CAR 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
PTA vs ADE 15:20Adelaide Oval
STK vs RIC 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs GEE 13:45SO
ADE vs GCF 14:10Adelaide Oval
RIC vs FRE 16:35MCG
ESS vs PTA 19:20ES
BRI vs NTH 19:20G
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU vs COL 13:10ES
MEL vs STK 15:20MCG
WCE vs SYD 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW vs RIC 19:50MCG
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs BRI 13:45SS
COL vs MEL 14:10MCG
SYD vs ADE 16:35SCG
CAR vs NTH 19:20ES
GCF vs WCE 19:20MS
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA vs STK 13:10Adelaide Oval
ESS vs WBU 15:20ES
FRE vs GWS 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
WBU vs PTA 14:10ES
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
GEE vs SYD 19:20SS
WCE vs HAW 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL vs NTH 13:10MCG
GWS vs ESS 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs FRE 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs COL 19:50SCG
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs ADE 13:45ES
NTH vs STK 14:10BA
PTA vs GWS 16:35Adelaide Oval
GEE vs HAW 19:20MCG
BRI vs CAR 19:20G
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC vs GCF 13:10MCG
WBU vs MEL 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs PTA 19:50ES
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs RIC 13:45MCG
GWS vs SYD 14:10Spotless Stadium
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
STK vs GEE 19:20ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs FRE 13:10ES
CAR vs MEL 15:20MCG
WCE vs WBU 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS vs CAR 13:45Spotless Stadium
HAW vs BRI 14:10AS
NTH vs WBU 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:20MCG
GCF vs PTA 19:20MS
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE vs WCE 13:10Adelaide Oval
STK vs SYD 15:20ES
FRE vs MEL 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 00:00MCG
RIC vs NTH 00:00ES
HAW vs CAR 00:00MCG
GEE vs ADE 00:00SS
SYD vs GCF 00:00SCG
MEL vs GWS 00:00ES
BRI vs WBU 00:00G
PTA vs FRE 00:30Adelaide Oval
WCE vs STK 02:00Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 9 9 0 0 151.61 36
West Coast Eagles 9 7 2 0 161.19 28
Sydney Swans 9 7 2 0 134.49 28
Collingwood 9 6 3 0 128.24 24
GWS Giants 9 6 3 0 110.26 24
Hawthorn 9 5 4 0 151.26 20
Adelaide Crows 9 5 4 0 113.37 20
Richmond 9 5 4 0 108.86 20
View all
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