CONGRATULATIONS Melbourne. And yet again - as was noted at Geelong in 2006 and Richmond in 2016 - a club that "stays the course" has the AFL premiership flag to show for its courage.

Yet again, a coach under pressure - as Mark Thompson was at Kardinia Park in 2006 and Damien Hardwick was at Punt Road in 2016 - survives to join an exclusive list as a premiership mentor. Simon Goodwin ends the Norm Smith curse at Melbourne after 57 years after many felt the South Australian was doomed to join the long list of coaches who failed at Australia's oldest football club.

AFL Season 2021 ends with just one winner recognised. This is the way of Australian football. Everyone else is left to adjust to meet - and then beat - Melbourne's league-best standard.

Port Adelaide, for the second consecutive season, ranks third. This is the club's best pairing of rankings since the early 2000s era that delivered the breakthrough AFL premiership in 2004.

That first national league flag was won after much heartbreak. But success was achieved by "staying the course" and believing in coach Mark Williams, regardless of the heavy pressure put on the club's leaders.

It seems destiny has a sliding door at Alberton again, combining the challenges of 2001-2003 from the chokers' era - and the devastating fall-out of the 2007 AFL grand final. Overcoming one of these challenges took Port Adelaide to the top of the mountain in 2004; the other to the club's deepest valley in 2010-2012.

Two interviews last week - from newly crowned Brownlow Medallist Ollie Wines and departing senior assistant coach Michael Voss - should echo across Alberton during the summer.

Voss moves to Carlton as senior coach after seven years with Port Adelaide.

His parting thought at a club that lives to the mantra of "Never Tear Us Apart" is: "The Port Adelaide faithful - even in extreme disappointment - need to remember it is important they stay connected with the football team and as a football club.

"It is not a moment to cast blame on who, what and why the team fell down (in the home preliminary final against the Western Bulldogs). That analysis will be done; the game will be thoroughly pulled apart.

"But it is impossible to preach connection - and say it is a great thing to have in good times - if people fracture when it gets tough. You have to make sure you stay connected as a football club when things do not go well. 

"While (the preliminary final) was a bad day, the club is in a great position with a great group of players who are well coached. They will be thereabouts again. And with the same opportunity, they will get the job done."

The question of how the 71-point defeat to the Western Bulldogs - in a second consecutive home preliminary final - leaves a scar on the Port Adelaide players will not be answered until next season and the next finals series.

Wines insists the pain of defeat will be inspiring rather than destructive.

"We are incredibly motivated," said Wines. "For two years in a row now we have had the best opportunity we would earn ourselves. We put in so much hard work from Day One of pre-season to get to that preliminary final - and then we let ourselves down. 

"We will continue to strive to improve. I have full faith that after a couple of months off to reset and clear our minds that we will come back, ready to work and we will get back there next year."

Port Adelaide's slogan is, "The Future Is Ours".

Staying connected and determined to improve is the challenge for the present. And as Melbourne has proven, a bit of adversity can strengthen rather than rock the foundations of a premiership side if everyone stays the course.