No two games are ever the same, insists Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley.

"Personnel changes - four or five for both teams," says Hinkley as Port Adelaide prepares for its second qualifying final in two years against Geelong at Adelaide Oval on Friday night.

But there are trends that define match-ups, particularly the Port Adelaide-Geelong rivalry that enters consecutive qualifying finals at Adelaide Oval on Friday night.

Since Hinkley started the revival at Alberton in 2013, Port Adelaide has beaten Geelong every time it has held the Victorian club to less than 10 goals - 5.12 in last year's qualifying final; 8.8 at Adelaide Oval in round 14, 2019 and 9.13 at the Oval again in round 6, 2014.

So there is a theme. And with it comes the challenge to the Port Adelaide defence - and the team's growing midfield to repeat the strategies that contained Geelong in last year's qualifying final at Adelaide Oval.

"The way we played Geelong that night," says recently retired Port Adelaide forward Tom Rockliff, "we played the right way."

Tom Jonas and Ryan Burton celebrate during the 2020 Qualifying Final against Geelong at Adelaide Oval.

The playbook might be still relevant, but - just as Hinkley spells out - the teams for this qualifying final have changed, significantly changed.

The big difference this time is 196 centimetres on the tape measure. It is Greater Western Sydney recruit Jeremy Cameron who will partner 300-game Coleman Medal-winning forward Tom Hawkins in the Geelong attack.

And this time, Port Adelaide has its Sydney recruit, 195cm defender Aliir Aliir with his notable marking skills to present as a roadblock while Geelong patiently seek entry points to its forward-50 arc.

The other telling difference with Port Adelaide for this double-chance final is a deeper midfield that can cope better should - as expected - Geelong assign Mark O'Connor the job of minding former Port Adelaide captain Travis Boak or vice-captain Ollie Wines. This time there is the more accomplished Karl Amon who has earned an All-Australian nomination this season and tyros Willem Drew and Rising Star nominee Miles Bergman.

Port Adelaide's record of defying Geelong in low-scoring games should be seen as an advantage in finals that are traditionally tighter and tougher contests than home-and-away matches.

"There are a lot of things that go into a low-scoring game," Hinkley notes. "Particularly when you play night games. They can look perfect but with the dew they are not. They look like they should be higher-scoring games, but the ball is harder to handle (when wet).

"And there is significant pressure applied by both sides that are out there with massive things to play for - that builds pressure to an elite level that makes it a really tough game to play."

Here, Port Adelaide has another advantage from winning all six games decided by 13 points or less this season.

"You have to be resilient to hang in for the whole game," Hinkley said.

"For us, we need to understand the gamestyle we play - stick to a process. And we do that pretty well."

Port Adelaide has kept the same defensive trio - of captain Tom Jonas, All-Australian nominee Aliir and Trent McKenzie, rather than Tom Clurey - as used in the round 13 clash won by Geelong by 21 points at Adelaide Oval where Hawkins, Cameron and Gary Rohan combined for 12 of Geelong's 17 goals in a Thursday night game.

But, as in that "right way" qualifying final last year, the challenge falls on the Port Adelaide midfield to hold firm to the playbook that demands strength at the contest (the big barometer with Port Adelaide this season). This is no easy task against a notable Geelong midfield stocked with Brownlow Medallist Patrick Dangerfield and captain Joel Selwood.

"Typically," notes Hinkley of the midfield match-ups in Port Adelaide-Geelong games, "they go head-to-head (as classic duels rather than lock-down assignments). O'Connor has played some tagging roles. But there is flexibility.

"(Geelong mentor) Chris (Scott) is a really clever coach who will do everything to make sure Geelong win; and we will do everything to make sure Port Adelaide wins.

"Geelong is a side we respect enormously ... and a side we are desperate to beat."

In attack, Port Adelaide last year had Charlie Dixon, Todd Marshall, Ladhams ... and three goals from Geelong recruit Steven Motlop. Some things have not changed a year later (although injury to Rising Star nominee Mitch Georgiades has denied Port Adelaide to chance to load up with tall forwards).

Different line-ups, same rivals in the same final at Adelaide Oval and now the test of the theory on how Port Adelaide wins by containing Geelong's scoring to no more than 10 goals.



(the little stuff that counts most)

Where: Adelaide Oval

When: Friday, August 27, 2021

Time: 7.20pm (SA time)

Last time: Port Adelaide 14.7 (91) lost to Geelong 17.10 (112) at Adelaide Oval, round 13, June 10, 2021

Overall: Port Adelaide 11, Geelong 24, one draw

Past five games (most recent first): L W L W L 

Scoring average: Port Adelaide 80, Geelong 99

Drawn game: Port Adelaide 10.18 (78) drew with Geelong 12.6 (78) at Football Park in round 10, May 13, 2000

Tightest winning margin - Port Adelaide by four points (116-112) at Football Park in round 10, May 30, 2004; Geelong by one point (70-69) at Kardinia Park in round 14, July 6, 2003.

Biggest winning margin - Port Adelaide by 75 points (129-54) at Football Park, round 8, May 18, 2002; Geelong by 119 points (163-44) at MCG, grand final, September 29, 2007.

By venues - Adelaide Oval (3-4), Football Park (6-1-5), Kardinia Park (2-12), MCG (0-2), Metricon Stadium (0-1).

By States - South Australia (9-1-9), Victoria (2-14), Queensland (0-1).


2004, qualifying final - Port Adelaide 18.9 (117) d Geelong 9.8 (62) at Football Park.

2007, grand final - Port Adelaide 6.8 (44) lost to Geelong 24.19 (163) at the MCG.

2013, semi-final - Port Adelaide 12.8 (80) lost to Geelong 13.18 (96) at the MCG.

2020, qualifying final - Port Adelaide 9.4 (58) d Geelong 5.12 (42) at Adelaide Oval.