WE know that, should after striving to our utmost, after giving our everything still not be successful, our efforts will become a further part of this club's enviable tradition.

PORT Adelaide's history, as coach Ken Hinkley noted at the start of this 150th anniversary season, is built on premierships.

Club patriarch Fos Williams also emphasised - with his living legacy in "The Creed" written in 1962 - that Port Adelaide's traditions were to be built on exhausting every ounce of spirit to achieve premiership success.

There is no flag to add to the grand collection at Alberton this year. The dream script for the 150th anniversary has a bitter but proud ending. There will be admiration for how Port Adelaide has re-established itself as a respected contender in the 18-team national competition. There also is promise for what might be next season and beyond.

The six-point loss to AFL champion Richmond at Adelaide Oval on Friday night - in a other classic AFL preliminary final - lives up to the ethos of Williams' creed.

A decade ago, Port Adelaide was a football club being torn apart from within and externally. Today, the ultimate objective of claiming a second AFL premiership flag remains. Not in question is Port Adelaide's ability - or willingness to put everything on the line - to achieve such glory.

Nor is there a tightening sash bringing down any hope on the so-called "premiership window". But there is still work to do against the reality that no team can stand still in an elite competition that punishes the idle.

Now Port Adelaide has to find more .... 

I commend Ken and his Port Adelaide boys. They are an incredible side. I absolutely love the way they play. They're a side to really fear. They way they move the ball, the way they back their players in, they're going to be a very side for a long period of time. They're a formidable outfit - well coached, well drilled; a wonderful team, a really wonderful team.

Richmond premiership coach Damien Hardwick

03:11 Mins
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Game Film: Preliminary Final | PTV

A heartbreaker against the Tigers.

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Season 2020 ends with Port Adelaide having escaped the "no man's land" just outside the AFL top eight to claim the McClelland Trophy as the league minor premier, after leading the competition - in its most-testing home-and-away series - from start to finish.

It closes at Alberton with Port Adelaide having established a new platform for sustained success.

It leads to Season 2021 filled with realistic optimism while the game still needs to contend with uncertainty created by the COVID pandemic.

Pushing Richmond to the edge tells how close Port Adelaide is to fulfilling its true goal. There is no guarantee, as noted by Port Adelaide not playing in finals in 2015 and 2016 after taking Hawthorn to the brink in the 2014 preliminary final. But this time there appears much more depth in Port Adelaide.

I could not be prouder of the way we approached this year and what we achieved. We're not satisfied. We exist to win premierships. We will come back eager to win in 2021.

Port Adelaide captain Tom Jonas

PRELIMINARY FINAL

Port Adelaide 6.4 (40) lost to Richmond 6.10 (46)

SIX points.

One kick. Which kick?

The "what ifs" are a torment ... in an exhausting final that never had more than 11 points on the lead.

The 2020 preliminary final - and Port Adelaide's on-field campaign in its 150th year - ends like the three-point loss to eventual AFL premier Hawthorn in 2014 at the MCG: There are so many moments no-one gets to play again.

"There are lots of little bits (you can replay in your mind)," said Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley. "I could hit the pause button (on review) and be critical ... but the game is not played on pause.

"You have to risk the hurt ..."

And the pain is harshest when there is no second chance - no "next week" - from a preliminary final. "It is," adds Hinkley, "a missed opportunity, no doubt ... and you have to work really hard to get a other one."

When that final siren echoed across a wet Adelaide Oval on Friday night, two hours of tough and demanding football played under intense pressure do cram into one quick rush of "what ifs". 

So many relate to the scoreboard where Port Adelaide could not find that gap that was so critical in the round 11 win against the AFL champion at Adelaide Oval where Richmond realised it had to change to match a bold challenger for its crown. That scoreboard is the lasting canvas of Port Adelaide making 12 attempts to score from 59 inside-50 entries (20 per cent efficiency); Richmond had 19 from 44 (43 per cent).

The "what if" list is as long as the record of missed goals at the MCG against Hawthorn in 2014.

Todd Marshall with the first attempt to score a goal that went right in the second minute.

Xavier Duursma with the dropped chest mark after Connor Rozee, in the old scoreboard pocket, spotted his team-mate across the face of goal early in the second term.

No score while dominating the end of the second term with eight of the last nine inside-50s of a half that finished level at 3.3 each.

Former captain Travis Boak not scoring from a set shot in time-on of the third term, after Rozee's assertive win of the ball in the centre square. And the no score on the play that quickly followed with defender Ryan Burton after he was spotted at half-forward by Robbie Gray.

What if ...

No one can question Port Adelaide's determination to stand up to the challenge posed by Richmond, the 2017 and 2019 AFL premier. This was evident from the start when former vice-captain Hamish Hartlett - putting his body where his pre-game words demanded he go - crunched Richmond midfielder Dion Prestia.

No one will forget former vice-captain Brad Ebert's final act on an AFL field - the courageous and perfect spoil against the flight of the ball kicked to leading Richmond key forward Jack Riewoldt in the 18th minute of the last term.

Brad will walk away from the club knowing he did everything he possibly could ... the courage of that man is amazing. It's what Brad has always done. You can't question the way he prepares, the way he trains, the way he plays.if 

Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley on former vice-captain Brad Ebert

The heroics of Brad Ebert's final play in football will go down in Port Adelaide folklore.

Port Adelaide's past three AFL finals losses - by six points to Richmond in this preliminary final, by two points in double extra-time to West Coast in the 2017 elimination final and by three points in a other epic preliminary final, the 2014 battle with Hawthorn - all have, as Hinkley notes, "the harshest lessons".

There might be debate on how Port Adelaide worked the ball with 300 disposals - 190 kicks, 110 handpasses - in wet conditions against a team that has made its brand on tormenting opponents on turnovers and rebounds.

"That has worked for us; we have been brave enough to play that way all year," said Hinkley. 

The red flags on the key performance indicators were alarming in the last quarter while  Richmond built its advantages to a commanding position in the final term. Richmond set the tone by winning the clearances 16-4 in the final quarter. In the second half, Richmond won the clearances 27-9 ... Port Adelaide's strength became its weakness; Richmond's reputation for not being a stoppage team certainly changed.

Not in question is how the challenger pushed the champion to the limit.

We didn't get to where we wanted to go, but we did it give it one helluva shot.

Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley

QUOTES OF THE GAME

"What Port Adelaide threw at us was incredible. That game, it was brutal the whole way through, guys throwing their bodies on the line ..."

Richmond premiership coach Damien Hardwick

"Heroic is the word for Brad Ebert."

Port Adelaide premiership midfielder Kane Cornes

"It doesn't matter. Umpires paid it as deliberate out of bounds. I'm not going to judge the umpires; it's a high-pressure game for them too. I never sit there and get too focused on one decision."

Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley on the call made against defender Hamish Hartlett that set up Kane Lambert's successful kick at goal in the 11th minute of the last term - and put Richmond 10 points ahead.

TAKE IT TO THE BANK

(five things learned during the past week)

1) FANS FIRST. Port Adelaide's inaugural AFL club president Greg Boulton always stressed: "Fans follow clubs not the game." The fewer the clubs, then less fans following the game leads to one critical consequence - and a weaker league. Sydney chairman Andrew Pridham's wish for an independent review of the game and the AFL Commission - a concept he says is an "opportunity, not threat" - comes as Australian football, along with so many other sports, search for a way to advance from survival to thrive. "We have the greatest game in the world and we need to make sure it keeps getting better," says Pridham. "Let's look at everything, but not set any expectations or outcomes." The events of 2020 pre-empt any review in reinforcing the game is only at its best with fans. And fans need clubs.

2) SYMBOLISM. Taking a strip of grass from the MCG to place at the Gabba in Brisbane during AFL grand final preparations might draw comparisons with the symbolic theme of carrying the Olympic flame from the home of the ancient Games in Athens to the host city of the modern Olympics. But ...

3) APPEAL. Richmond coach Damien Hardwick is not alone at appreciating the way Port Adelaide plays - and this should resonate with the Channel Seven executives when the television network values which AFL teams can draw an audience on the national free-to-air screens that command commercial power. The Port Adelaide-Richmond preliminary final reached 2.66 million across Australia with an average aside of 1.386 million (up one per cent on last year's Friday night preliminary final between the all-Victorian pairing of Richmond and Geelong). Port Adelaide has made huge progress on this front - a point that might be reflected in the AFL fixture, when that can be planned free of pandemic curve balls.

4) RULES. One of Australian football's pains is how the rules of the game are subject to "interpretations" that create variations between umpires, between matches and between rounds. The AFL semi-finals and preliminary finals did present a stricter interpretation of "deliberate out of bounds" - taking the AFL closer to the SANFL "last touch" rule. Holding-the-ball came to include players in possession of the ball being penalised (for incorrect disposal) when then the ball was knocked from their hands. Push in the back is almost extinct. 

5) HUMAN GAME. A sport that began as a distraction from the demands of day-to-day life has become a burden more so than a true of the Latin phrase "mens sana in corpore sano" (a healthy mind in a healthy body). Of all the reviews professional Australian football needs, the most pressing is noted best by former Western Bulldogs and Richmond coach Terry Wallace: "I know it has been an unusual year, but the game's management needs to investigate why the competition has so many individuals who have been broken. This needs urgent attention." The game today has its arms open in support of North Melbourne coach Rhyce Shaw.

NEXT

REALITY ... one campaign ends, the next one rolls in immediately - exit meetings, list adjustments, trade talks, national and pre-season drafts ... And still questions for the AFL to answer on list sizes and the salary cap.

"We have a lot of the pieces we need; there is so much growth," says Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley. "I'm optimistic about our football club; it's going to be a very good football club."

Port Adelaide closes the AFL premiership race ranked third - its highest placing since 2007.

"We have climbed a mountain," says Hinkley of the rise from non-finalist in 2018 and last season to minor premier this year. "We didn't quite get to the top ... but there is optimism in us."

Season 2020 - the only that can only carry an asterisk to recognise the premiership was won by a team that carried demands unknown in 160 years of organised Australian football - will end with history being made at a night grand final at the Gabba.

Defending champion Richmond will have the "home ground" theme noted at the MCG during its past two grand finals reversed with Brisbane savouring all the comforts of home in the first meeting of these AFL clubs in a grand final. (There was a match-up with Fitzroy, the VFL founding club that merged with Brisbane at the end of 1996, in 1944 - at the Junction Oval when the MCG was taken for war needs. Fitzroy won 66-51).

Defending champion Richmond and Geelong will re-engage in a grand final for the first time since September 23, 1967 when 109,396 crammed the MCG to watch a dramatic finish. Minor premier Richmond won by nine points - after Geelong put up 2.8 in the last term - to start a four-flag dynasty with coach Tom Hafey.

I said last year, if you can't see the positivity in Port Adelaide, you're not looking. You have to be able to see it - and know that we have got it and we have just got to work hard to get back here again.

Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley

ANNIVERSARY NOTE

October 1, 1870

PORT Adelaide's 150th anniversary seasons ends as a mirror image of the centenary in  1970 - an outstanding home-and-away season, the minor premiership and a loss in a preliminary final (also to a team with the "Tigers" nickname).

The progress from a powerhouse in a State league in 1970 to a pacesetter in the national competition would have been unimaginable to the club's pioneers who closed their inaugural season in 1870 at Glanville.

The Port Adelaide Football Club's last game of the season came off on October 1, when several prizes were contended for including a handsome ladies' bag. Mr George Ireland was captain of the Blues and Mr J Counsell for the Whites. Shortly before 3pm the Hon. Treasurer John Hart kicked off the ball, and after an hour and a half's hard play Mr John Wald got a goal for the Blues. Play was continued till 5 o'clock, that being the timed arranged for closing. No other goal being taken the Blues were declared victors. Mrs Hart then presented the prizes to the successful competitors, Messrs Ireland, Wald, Middleton, Rann, Leicester, Pickhaver, Quin, Stevens, Wells, Ede, Sparnon and Ottaway. Cheers were given for Captain (Hart), Mrs and Miss Hart both on arriving and leaving the ground, which was very prettily decorated with numerous flags and a very tasteful arch. There was a large concourse of spectators (about 600), who seemed highly amused  at the "busters" some of the players were fortunate to get. The Port Adelaide Artillery Band enlivened the game with spirited music. The catering was successfully carried out by Mr William Goldsworthy. Altogether the proceedings reflected credit on the club and was a fitting close to a successful season.

Port Adelaide, since 1870.

Season 150 began with the bold declaration that Port Adelaide was aiming for the AFL flag to be true to its traditions and ethos of "We exist to win premierships." It lived to that dream to the fullest.

FINALLY, we concede there can be honour in defeat, but to each of us, honourable defeat of our club and guernsey can only come after human endeavour on the playing field is completely exhausted.

The Creed