SHOWDOWN specialist Robbie Gray has done enough in his training to be recalled for the 50th edition of the South Australian derby at Adelaide Oval on Saturday night. 

The five-time Showdown Medallist's place on the team sheet - to be filed at AFL House on Thursday night - simply rests on his recovery after a reassuring training session at Alberton.

Port Adelaide defence coach Brett Montgomery was convinced by Gray's work at training on Thursday morning, paving the way for the midfielder-forward to return to the AFL line-up for the first time since a knee injury soured his 250th game on June 19 against Gold Coast.

"Robbie trained, he looked good, he moved well," Montgomery said. "He needs to be a 'return to play' player. We trained for 35 minutes (with match simulation). He did all that. He did some Robbie Gray things. We were happy.

"The next part of that is how does he pull up? We will get a good handle on that as the day plays out. 

"If he feels good, he pulls up well ... he has certainly showed us enough, not just today but in his previous sessions in Melbourne. (But) we are very optimistic ... very optimistic.

"And there is some excitement around it."

Gray's reputation as a matchwinner puts him in the frame for selection, regardless of his reputation as a Showdown specialist.

"We need Robbie back in the team - we would love him back, whether it is this week or next we will soon see," Montgomery said.

"It is not about his record in (Showdowns), but his record in general. 

"If he comes out and has a really, really good game no-one should be surprised."

02:08 Mins
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Port Adelaide worked lead ruckman Scott Lycett with support from key forward Charlie Dixon in the first derby this season. This time it will be two ruckmen - Lycett and the goalscoring Peter Ladhams. This keeps Port Adelaide working four big forwards - Ladhams, Dixon, Mitch Georgiades and Todd Marshall.

"We are still searching for that perfect mix," Montgomery said. "We have persisted for a period of time. You always have to give up something to get something. We think we get great control of the game having two ruckmen.

"But what does that ruckman do when he is pushed out of that key role? What is he able to do to survive and complement the team?" added Montgomery with Ladhams answering this need with three goals against Greater Western Sydney on Sunday.

"There is a balance conversation going on all the time. The challenge for these guys so to make sure they do not become vulnerable."

Port Adelaide has ridden through a demanding run with injuries to command a top-four  berth and now face tantalising options at selection. 

"We have been exploring with guys who have been deserving of opportunity," Montgomery said of the recent selection decisions at Alberton. "That has been fantastic. We have had a look at the squad. 

"Sometimes you are under more pressure by having that look.

"But the band is getting back together. (Selection includes) the ones we believe that will take us forward when it gets pointy (during finals). Now we have to get some synergy in a short period of time (with three home-and-away games to be played against Adelaide, Carlton and the league-leading Western Bulldogs)."

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Regaining valued talent from the injury list has boosted Port Adelaide's form and playing style, particularly in commanding forward-half territory.

"There is some tightening up of how we want to play," Montgomery said. "Most things are pointing in the right direction. There is no guarantee with getting players back or finding form. 

"We believe we have not been at our absolute best. But we have seen some things we are really pleased with too.

"There has been a return to what makes us very good. While we explored some things - and some (changes) earlier in the year were organic and became part of our game - we are back to a point now where we know what works.

"It is not a magic formula. But there is some real strength in the way we play when we get it how we like it."

Fourth-ranked Port Adelaide faces non-contender Adelaide with the chance to current extend the winning steak in Showdowns to four. There also is the need to strengthen the hold on fourth spot.

"Four-quarter performance is what we are searching for," Montgomery said. "That has been the missing piece. It is not that we have been playing poorly. It has not been the personnel. We just haven't played four quarters. We just have to get our four-quarter game going."

Port Adelaide will play before perhaps no more than 350 cheering fans - and at least 12,000 jeering opposition supporters while capacity at Adelaide Oval is capped by COVID protocols.

"(Captain) Tom Jonas put it really well - he would rather be in a stadium with booing and hatred rather than no-one at all," Montgomery said. "It is the sort of thing that gets him going. 

"It has been an incredibly tough season again. Any crowd, any people, any atmosphere - our players are only going to feed off that."