The football world can be quick to jump on fads, but often disarmingly slow to acknowledge the transition from novelty to an entrenched part of the landscape. Particularly when it comes to a club’s unexpected emergence.
Which means that over the next few months Port Adelaide is likely to be challenging a lot of popular thinking about the game.
The Power certainly isn't following the accepted maxims about gradual progressions. Last year, under the coaching of Ken Hinkley, it climbed from 14th to fifth in one hit. This season, there’s been improvement again, culminating in Sunday’s dismantling of Geelong.
So just six rounds into the new regime’s sophomore season, it’s clearly time to pose the question seemingly unthinkable only 12 months or so ago: Is Port Adelaide premiership material? And the short answer is: Why not?
The Power’s progress even from last year to this has been remarkable. Port is winning more of the football, particularly the contested ball, using it better, and generating more scoring opportunities than nearly all its rivals.
Port ranked 12th on the contested ball differentials in 2013. It is now second. Ninth on the inside-50 differentials then,now second. Kicking efficiency has climbed from 13th to fourth.
And the numbers on the most obvious indicator, the scoreboard, have taken a big leap as well. Port is second for points scored, its average of 112.2 points a game is more than three goals a game up on 2013. It’s conceding three goals less a game, too.
While there’s plenty of attention on Port’s impressive midfield, and the likes of Travis Boak, Hamish Hartlett, Brad Ebert and Ollie Wines, its forward set-up is also proving potent with a variety of scoring options of which Jay Schulz, Justin Westhoff and Chad Wingard are just a handful.
The Power ranks second for marks inside-50 and its efficiency in scoring from 52.3 per cent of inside-50s is bettered only by Hawthorn, which is also the only side faring better than Port's average of nine individual goalkickers a game.
In fact, there’s barely a box that Port Adelaide isn't ticking when it comes to flag legitimacy. But while there’s plenty of wisdom in hindsight, few outside Alberton Oval dared to even ponder the possibility only a couple of months ago.
For all Port’s gains in 2013, and the fact it finished only three goals away from a preliminary final, few pundits before this season (and this one pleads guilty) were prepared to put the Power in the top eight.
There were seemingly too many in the queue ahead of it. Perennials such as Hawthorn, Sydney and Geelong. A beaten grand finalist in Fremantle. West Coast and Adelaide were given lenience for one poor season, and the usual bluster that accompanies the claims of the established Victorian powers.
But four of those have only 50 per cent winning records and are either just inside or out of the top eight. It’s Port that has set up camp in the top four, and recent history suggests there won’t be a lot of movement from this point of the season on.
If you’re looking for a recent parallel, West Coast in 2011 provides one, with the Eagles climbing from a wooden spoon to the top four. But much of that improvement came from their considerable number of older players finding fitness and form. It was a renaissance that couldn’t be sustained.
Port’s older heads such as Schulz, Kane Cornes and Dom Cassisi are all doing their bit. But there’s far more players involved in this emerging force who are either in the prime (Boak, Westhoff and Robbie Gray) or still early stages (such as Wines, Wingard, Hartlett and Jared Polec) of their careers.
Indeed, perhaps the most significant statistic about Port Adelaide right now is the fact that its list remains the third youngest in the AFL, and in terms of games played, the fourth least experienced.
Which means that on form, come September we could not only be looking at one of the youngest premiership teams, but one that, far from being a novelty, intends hanging around for a long time yet.