EVERY AFL team carries a label. Some are sown onto the jumpers with stronger stitching than others, as Port Adelaide remembers from the 2001-2004 era when only a breakthrough AFL premiership stopped the team from being tagged as "chokers".

This year, Port Adelaide has been:

*PREMIERSHIP contender. It is worth remembering that from the fine judges of 17 AFL captains outside of Alberton all but one had Port Adelaide to play finals in September. Two of Tom Jonas' counterparts in the captains' club regarded Port Adelaide worthy of a grand final appearance.

*BEST 0-5 team in the competition's history, according to West Coast premiership mentor Adam Simpson. Take away the hefty loss to Hawthorn at Adelaide Oval in round 2 and there were moments or responses to admire in the other four games against Brisbane, Adelaide, Carlton and AFL premier Melbourne, even if there was no premiership point banked at Alberton.

*AND now after four consecutive wins the AFL pundits are holding fire ... until they see this round 9 game between Port Adelaide and perennial measuring stick Geelong at Kardinia Park in Saturday afternoon football.

What cannot be understated is how Port Adelaide, after making its worst start to an AFL season, went to work with a strong focus on ignoring the doomsday scripts being written outside Alberton. This is a reassuring measure of the football program, the people who lead it (including senior coach Ken Hinkley) and, in particular, the players who could have easily thought the challenge was too daunting.

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Ken Hinkley press conference - 19 May 2022 | PTV

Ken Hinkley speaks to the media at Alberton Oval

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"We are working every day to get better," says senior coach Ken Hinkley. "That is what we have done from when we were 0-5, even when we were 0-3. We just keep our focus on what we need to do.

"We are not perfect by any means. But we are continuing to build. We will do that day by day, hopefully right up to the end of the year."

Now, Geelong at Geelong is just the match-up many need to give some substance to their verdicts on Port Adelaide.

OH, CORIO BAY

IT is always about the ground. Kardinia Park, home to the Geelong Football Club since 1941. Intriguing for its dimensions - skinny at 115 metres wide and 170 metres long. More out-of-bounds on the full free kicks are called on this venue than anywhere else in the AFL.

Geelong has won 465 of its 693 matches at Kardinia Park (for a 67 per cent success rate) and strangely has lost three of its past five games at Corio Bay (to Fremantle, Melbourne and Greater Western Sydney).

Port Adelaide has a 2-12 win-loss record at Kardinia Park - and no match at Geelong since 2017. The most- recent win was in 2007 with the never-to-be-forgotten match-winning goal in the final seconds from Dom Cassisi.

"I do remember a little of the match ...  Dom Cassisi kicking a fantastic goal," said Hinkley this week when pressed on his memory of the game from the Geelong coach's box. And if he had forgotten ...

"Dom was in the club during the week - and he told me about it."

Sam Powell-Pepper and Robbie Gray celebrate a goal against Geelong in 2017. Image: AFL Photos.

Port Adelaide premiership midfielder Kane Cornes argues there is a way to play Kardinia Park - and it is well within the parameters of Port Adelaide's current game plan, more so if Hinkley's team can impose leg speed on the Geelong midfield. Connor Rozee's moment arrives again.

"Kardinia Park does not disrupt Port Adelaide too much with its game style this year," said Cornes. "They are not having as much width on the ball when they are transitioning; they are not going as wide as they once did. And that is an issue if you are playing at Geelong because it is so narrow. You see how many times teams kick the ball out-on-the-full (when they are trying to play as wide as they would at other grounds); it is ridiculous.

"If you play more direct and if you are prepared to put numbers around the footy and take more risks through the middle of the ground ... and Port Adelaide has been better at that recently."

Port Adelaide midfielder Zak Butters has never played an AFL match at Kardinia Park, but he did venture to Geelong during his upbringing in Victorian junior representative football ranks.

"Two or three games," Butters said. "It is harder to score on that skinny ground if you defend well. That is what we will be trying to do (with team defence). We're looking at being hard on defence."

Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley played 44 AFL games with Geelong at Kardinia Park. He has watched as a Geelong player and assistant coach how visiting teams have struggled to understand the danger of playing the ground and ignoring the opponent.

Zak Butters breaks the tackle of Geelong's Tom Atkins. Image: AFL Photos.

"Everyone talks about the ground, but it is not that much different to a lot of other grounds," Hinkley said. "It is certainly a little bit tighter. We get that.

"(Changing your game for Kardinia Park) might be a trap if you get caught in trying to adjust too much to what the ground is."

Port Adelaide had its captain's run training session at Kardinia Park on Friday to refresh memories for those who were last there in 2017 for a Thursday night game that went to the wire.

FORM GUIDE

AS well noted, Port Adelaide is on a streak - four wins in a row after starting with a less joyful streak of five losses.

Geelong, by contrast to its reputation, has paired wins only once this season - beating Collingwood and Brisbane in rounds 3 and 4. The results sequence since the start of the season is: W L W W L W L W L W ...

Port Adelaide and Geelong have been on the same "win followed by a loss" sequence in the clubs' head-to-head clashes since the 2018 season.

Round 5, 2018: Geelong won by 34 points at Adelaide Oval; then Port Adelaide won by 11 points at Adelaide Oval in round 14, 2019; it was Geelong's turn, by 60 points, at Carrara during the pandemic shutdown in Melbourne in 2020 when Port Adelaide followed up by winning the qualifying final at Adelaide Oval by 16 points; with this script repeated last season when Geelong won by 21 points at Adelaide Oval in round 13 and Port Adelaide took victory in the qualifying final at the Oval by 43 points.

Port Adelaide will face Geelong for the first time since the 2021 Qualifying Final. Image: AFL Photos.

FIREPOWER

BOTH teams play the game - to take a line from the Geelong club song - "as it should be played". Today, this means: Strong on team defence, strong at the contest and, as a result, strong in scoring.

Certainly Port Adelaide has been noted for seeking to overwhelm its opponents with inside-50 dominance, forward-half football and as much scoring as possible.

Geelong traditionally has sought to keep the tumblers turning on scoreboards. It is averaging 93 points this season, up on last year's count of 81. This is Geelong's highest average since 2017 (94 points a game).

Port Adelaide puts its new-look attack before Geelong for the first time. Todd Marshall, 17 goals; Greater Western Sydney recruit Jeremy Finlayson, 11 goals; Mitch Georgiades, 10 goals .... and Sam Powell-Pepper, 10 goals.

Port's tall forwards have been key to the side's improved performance, led by current leading goalkicker Todd Marshall. Image: AFL Photos.

This model has emerged as quite effective amid the absence of All-Australian key forward Charlie Dixon; more so since the Port Adelaide midfield has understood how different the supply must be to Marshall, Finlayson and Georgiades when compared with Dixon.

Setting aside the low-scoring game against St Kilda in the tropics of north Queensland, Port Adelaide in the past month has posted at least 25 scores in each of the games against West Coast, the Western Bulldogs and North Melbourne and it has broken the watershed 100-point barrier twice.

Accuracy is still a challenge with a season total of 99.111.

Geelong has its double-trouble tandem with Tom Hawkins (27 goals and second in the race for the Coleman Medal as the AFL's leading goalkicker) and Jeremy Cameron (25, fourth in the Coleman). The last time these teams met, in the qualifying final at Adelaide Oval last season, the Port Adelaide defence held Hawkins to two goals, Cameron to one and Geelong overall to five.

Geelong regains the opportunist around this pairing with Gary Rohan having overcome the back and hip issues that flared during the pre-season.

Which model - the attack with the scoring spread across many hands or the set-up with two imposing tall forwards - will be more effective this time?

Hawkins and Cameron will have Port Adelaide duo Tom Clurey and All-Australian defender Aliir Aliir as their shadows - and under the guidance of captain Tom Jonas who returns after missing last weekend's win against North Melbourne by the COVID protocols.

Port Adelaide re-gain the services of captain Tom Jonas after the defender was forced to miss Round 9. Image: AFL Photos.

The player of the moment for disrupting opposition attacks is Ryan Burton, as noted with his marking work against St Kilda in Cairns and again last weekend against North Melbourne.

Final line-ups tell the story of the midfields that have to create the supply for scoreboard pressure are amid moves to new eras at both clubs.

Sam Hayes gets another big test, as can be said again and again while he builds the start of his AFL career. His leap and deft tap work at centre bounces is proving more and more effective in creating hit-outs to advantage.  Such silver service would be much appreciated by young midfielders Zak Butters and Connor Rozee, who last week reminded all (after being hindered by injury last season) just how damaging his speed from contest can be.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"(On this week's guernsey having the totem of his grandmother) .. we look after the brolga and the brolga looks after us. As you can see, the brolga is taking off and is a powerful creature."

Port Adelaide defender Lachie Jones, who has designed this season's Indigenous jumper that will be worn during the Sir Doug Nicholls Round.

BIRD SEED

(the little stuff that counts most)

Where: Kardinia Park, Geelong

When: Saturday, May 21, 2022

Time: 1.15pm (SA time)

Last time: Port Adelaide 12.14 (86) d Geelong 5.13 (43) at Adelaide Oval, qualifying final August 27, last year

Overall: Port Adelaide 12, Geelong 24, one draw

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

Scoring average: Port Adelaide 80, Geelong 97

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 (4-4), Football Park (6-1-5), Kardinia Park (2-12), MCG (0-2), Metricon Stadium (0-1).

By States - South Australia (10-1-9), Victoria (2-14), Queensland (0-1).