PORT ADELAIDE SANFL coach Matthew Lokan is confident his side has retained the right balance to beat reigning premiers Sturt at Alberton on Sunday, despite losing key experience to the AFL.
The Magpies won their first game since Round 2 last week at Elizabeth against Central District but lost defender Jack Hombsch and forwards Lindsay Thomas and Todd Marshall to the AFL side.
Each played against the Western Bulldogs on Thursday night.
In their place, the Magpies have called in Jack Watts for his first game in the prison bars along with Jake Neade, Cam Hewett and the SANFL-contracted Jack Strange and Lewin Davis.
“We know that when Neadey plays in the SANFL he has a real impact on the game,” Lokan said.
“We’ve also got Cam Hewett back into the side, along with Jack Strange and Lewin Davis.
“We feel like the mix of our team is really balanced.
“We are a bit smaller in our backline this week which is something that we’ll try to counteract structurally but we think we’ve got a good enough side to get a result on Sunday.”
Watts’s omission from the AFL side was much publicised but Lokan isn’t setting lofty expectations of the Melbourne recruit.
The 27-year-old will provide a key forward target in the absence of leading scorer Thomas.
“We don’t put too many expectations on Jack,” Lokan said.
“It’ll be no different to what we expect of the rest of the forward line and that is just to have an impact.”
Lokan said his side took a lot of confidence out of its win at Elizabeth.
The Double Blues are coming off a loss to South Adelaide and will be primed to bounce back against last year’s grand final opponents.
“Any side can beat anyone on their day,” Lokan said.
“They’ve got some fantastic players in Kirkwood and Battersby, Osborne and Reid go through the ruck.
“We know it isn’t going to be an easy game so as long as we bring some consistent effort we should be able to bring home a win.”
Sturt probably hasn’t quite hit its straps this season but still sits third with three losses for the year, and Lokan said while there was a lot of quality in the Double Blues outfit, getting his own game plan right was more of a focus.
“We’re more focussing on us, what we need to do and the game we need to bring,” he said.
“If we lose this one we fall another game outside the top five and we need to win to keep in touch.
“We just need to bring that consistency and win the contested ball.
“It all starts with that centre square and winning that contested ball and the clearances.
“We’ve got an experienced midfield this week so we’ll put it on those guys to get the job done.”
The game gets underway at 2.40pm on Sunday at Alberton and will feature goal umpires with orange flags as part of the SANFL’s Multicultural Month.
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