Port Adelaide is still "hurting" by falling short with consecutive exits from AFL preliminary finals. But the club also is still sure its football program and list-management strategy will lead to fulfilling its "Chasing Greatness" agenda.
Port Adelaide football boss Chris Davies has vowed to test this belief with a vigorous review of the team's 71-point loss to the Western Bulldogs at Adelaide Oval on Saturday night.
"We will review every part of the performance - the preparation, the mindset, the structure of the match program, how we coached on the night ... they are all important parts of the review process," Davies said at Alberton on Wednesday.
"There is no hiding from the fact we were way off our best; we did not give an account of ourselves that we are proud of at all. There will be question marks on the whole aspect of it. It would be wrong to suggest one part is more important than any other."
And no-one person will be held to greater or less account for the poorest performance delivered by Port Adelaide this season.
"It is a group review that will require everyone to take their own portion of responsibility - including me," Davies said.
"All of us have responsibility. We have put ourselves in a position two years in a row where we are there to compete (for a grand final berth). That is the first step - but clearly we have another step to go. And all of our people will take responsibility.
"We do have to look at what has got us to finish third two years in a row. It is not what we want. We want to be better and we are going to have to sift through our program - and ask what is needed to get us to first because that is where we ultimately want to be."
Port Adelaide had completed exit interviews with its players this week - and noted the search for answers for Saturday night's exit from the AFL premiership race is well underway.
"Having sat in all of those interviews," said Davies, "it is fair to suggest that the guys are not going to be mortally wounded, but clearly they will have to review this result - and review it hard.
"We will support the players and coaches (through that review) in order to start next year in a way that gives us another chance to end the pain we feel right now.
"Saturday night was an abomination. And we are not hiding from that. Our players are hurting; our coaches are hurting. In the cold, hard light of day there are obvious parts of the game we did not get right. Our work around the ball was abysmal - and our contest work around the ground was not at the level it needs to be.
"We were beaten by a very good Western Bulldogs team - but we did not give an account of ourselves that we are overly proud of.
"But there should be some optimism on our young players getting better. We should be approaching 2022 with the same expectations we had this year. We think we have a group that will get better. That is our challenge now. And we know no-one will believe that until we get to another preliminary final - and get the job done.
"No hiding from that. It is our reality. And we have a coach and playing group who are willing to take that on."
Port Adelaide's preparations for next season turn to list management and recruiting options in the upcoming AFL trade period and national drafts.
Davies is still upbeat about the growth to come from Port Adelaide's squad.
"I would be more worried if I did not think we had a list that we did not believe could improve," Davies said. "We have a core group of young players who we think are going to take this club forward. Our list still has improvement in it.”
So far, Port Adelaide has cut experienced defender Hamish Hartlett, Joel Garner and rookie-listed Tyson Goldsack.
"No-one else will be delisted right now," Davies said. "And no-one has asked for a trade either. But there are some guys who might want to look at their alternatives if they see the potential for more games at other clubs. We will allow those guys to contemplate that.
"Right now the delistings in the short term are done."
The loss to the deep-running Western Bulldogs midfield has reaffirmed Port Adelaide needs more midfield depth - and some of this will be found with further development of Connor Rozee, Xavier Duursma and Zak Butters, all of whom were limited by surgery to clear injury this season.
"We are under no illusion that we need to get our list better," Davies said. "But that is not to suggest that is the only place we need to get better. We are going to need to make changes across the board.
"We can't deny that on Saturday night we were shown up by a midfield that batted deeper than ours. We went into this year with a plan of giving some more game time in the midfield to players we believe are our next midfielders. Some of that was denied by injury. We are going to have to move guys to get more midfield minutes for Duursma, Rozee, Butters ... Those are the guys who are going to take us forward.
"We need to give them opportunity - and not just on the periphery. We have to get those guys in there to provide us extra depth in the midfield."
Port Adelaide is already being linked to several players seeking trades, including former South Australians such as midfielder-forward Jordan Dawson at Sydney.
"Jordan is a player we have extreme interest in," Davies confirmed. "Any South Australian player who is looking to come home, we have a responsibility to do our due diligence. Jordan has had a fantastic year; we had real interest in his draft year (2015, No. 56 pick). He would certainly complement an area of the ground we need to continue to work on."
Port Adelaide also needs to establish a new panel around senior coach Ken Hinkley with the move of assistant coach Jarrad Schofield to West Coast and the eagerness of senior assistant coach Michael Voss to regain a senior appointment with Carlton open to him. Voss is out of contact on October 31.
"We will work through that in the next week," Davies said. "We do have fantastic assistant coaches (Nathan Bassett, Brett Montgomery, Matthew Lokan, Trent Hentschel, Goldsack and Chad Cornes) who can take on more responsibility. The challenge with that is to find the right spots for them.
"We have people within our club who can take steps up. I am really confident in our coaching group - and that they can get better. Clearly, we all need to. Including myself."
Port Adelaide's season formally closes with the John Cahill Medal presentation on Thursday, September 30.