MUCH has been written about stand-alone Port Melbourne’s stunning unbeaten 2011 season, but with the loss of eight premiership players few could or would have predicted that the Borough would continue that dominance into 2012.
Despite defeating Frankston in Round 1, the Borough was a $7 chance in premiership markets. After defeating Frankston in Round 10, Port Melbourne are $1.55 with many conceding that only bad luck will stop them from going back-to-back for the first time since 1981-82.
Despite a 21-point loss to lowly Collingwood at Victoria Park in Round 8, after five home games Port Melbourne has an average winning margin of 87- points, well and truly surpassing their 2011 average winning margin of 43-points at North Port.
Those statistics alone are enough to make opponents glum. Ironically it’s the key team statistics from Port Melbourne’s only loss that indicate how good their 2012 season has been. 44 clearances to Collingwood’s 36, 16 centre breaks to nine and 57 inside 50’s to 50 indicate that the Borough were as dominant as any losing side could be. On this day turnovers cost them dearly.
When Port Melbourne chose to stand-alone for the 2006 season, success wasn’t guaranteed and most VFL followers doubted whether a stand-alone team could be a serious premiership threat, let alone win a premiership and 28 games in a row!
Port Melbourne’s dominance in 2012 does indicate that the standard of the VFL has dropped. With the entry of the Gold Coast Suns and Greater Western Sydney Giants into the AFL, and perennial VFL finals contender the Northern Bullants being replaced by Carlton reserves team the Northern Blues that was to be expected.
This however doesn’t dilute the outstanding achievements of Port Melbourne or give any credence to those calling for an AFL reserves competition. The standard of the VFL is light years ahead of what an AFL reserves competition could produce and despite the popular myth, there is no hard evidence to suggest that AFL clubs with their own second tier side develop players at a faster rate.
Beyond alignments with the Sydney Swans and North Melbourne, the rebuilding of the Borough brand came on the back of the hard work and unnerving attitude towards external opponents of President Peter Saultry.
After ceasing an acrimonious alignment with North Melbourne, Port Melbourne weren’t an overnight success winning just three games in 2006. From there the Borough has made every final series and has been a regular top four finisher since the inspired appointment of Garry Ayres at the end of the 2007 season.
Initially under Ayres Port Melbourne developed an aura of invincibility at home, for the past season and a half that invincibility has extended well beyond North Port.
Recruiting players with 50 plus games of AFL experience has played a major role in Port Melbourne’s tenure at the top. With North Port being located just a few kilometres from the CBD, the Borough has lured many players that otherwise may have been lost to suburban football.
As a stand-alone club Port Melbourne has also offered great opportunities for TAC Cup graduates Toby Pinwell, Chris Cain and Sam Dwyer who all made significant contributions to the Borough’s 2011 Premiership campaign.
Sam Pleming a veteran of 190 VFL games came to Port Melbourne after battling away on Carlton’s rookie list. Spending much of 2006 in the Borough reserves, Pleming has blossomed into one of the best defenders in the competition and his story is testament to the opportunity that comes with the stand-alone model.
Only an off day or a horror run with injury can stop Port Melbourne juggernaut and the VFL competition is better for it.
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