PORT ADELAIDE vice captain Ollie Wines has put his side’s early season success down to players being selfless and adhering to a set of non-negotiables.
Top of the ladder and the only unbeaten club in the competition after four rounds, Port heads into Saturday’s match against Brisbane at the Gabba in fine form.
Wines was among his side’s best players, with 25 disposals and a goal, in his first game for the season in Round 3, and started strongly before finishing with 14 touches in the Round 4 win over West Coast.
But he says players are not focused on numbers this season, instead knowing how to contribute to the team in other ways.
“Myself as an individual and us as mids understand it’s not about how many possessions you get or particularly the impact you have on the game, it’s what you do around the footy – the non-negotiables that we hold so highly,” he explained on Thursday.
“That way if an opponent does win a clearance, it’s a dirty clearance and doesn’t come out clean; we work hard, we run together, we outnumber at contests and I think as long as I’m doing that and we’re doing that as a midfield, we feel like we’re contributing to the team and at the moment it’s paying dividends.”
Wines and the midfield cohort will have its work cut out to contain their Brisbane rivals, particularly Lachie Neale who has started the season strongly and is widely considered the favourite for this year’s Brownlow Medal.
“He’s in some incredible form at the moment,” Wines said, full of praise.
“He’s probably one of the hardest working players in the AFL. You watch him from behind the goals vision and his ability to get from one contest to the next and to the next, I’m sure it’d be something he prides himself on because he’s so good at it.
“Being able to react when he runs and always having someone getting to the contest with him to compete.”
In 2019 Port elected to try to tag Neale to curb his influence and Wines said that is a possibility again on Saturday.
“With a player of Lachie Neale’s calibre you’ve got to look into every avenue to stop his impact on the game,” he said.
“That might be a possibility or in the past we have done some team jobs.
“So when guys do line up next to him at a stoppage they’re accountable for that player for that certain time so we’ll make that call later in the week.”
As it stands, Port will return to Adelaide on Sunday night after more than two weeks in the AFL’s Queensland hub.
Wines and his teammates are scheduled to return to the Gold Coast next week to take on GWS before a trip to Melbourne to face St Kilda.
With state border restrictions impacting travel to and from Victoria because of COVID-19, those fixtures are now in doubt with the AFL expected to rejig Rounds 6 and 7 in coming days.
Wines said his side had shown its ability to adapt to any situation and would do so again should the need arise.
“Wherever we have to go to play, we’re more than happy to,” he said.
“We’ve had an incredible time up here on the Gold Coast. The AFL has done an excellent job in putting the Mercure Resort on and all the staff and everyone who works there has been so accommodating.
“We’ve had a really good experience and wherever the AFL needs us to play, we’re happy to go and if it’s the Gold Coast we’re happy to come back.”
And with lingering questions about whether he sought a trade away from Alberton at the end of 2019, Wines was categoric in ruling that out – suggesting he is excited about his future at Port Adelaide.
“No, not at all,” he said when asked if he tried to leave.
“I’m contracted for another two years, I’m not even half way through my current deal.
“I’m really comfortable with where I am at, at the club. I don’t think the footy club has been in as exciting a position in all their history with the young talent and experience in the mix so we’re in a really good spot at the moment and it’s never crossed my mind.
“I’m really happy here and we think we can get some really special things done this year.”