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Port Adelaide Power v Collingwood Magpies preview, comparisons, dream runs, winning streak, Nick Daicos, Zak Butters, analysis, team news, latest

It’s been a fairytale run for the Power in 2023 — a run not many saw coming.

The club has surged all the way into second place on the ladder as one of the chief premiership favourites, only just having its record 13-game winning streak snapped at the hands of the Blues last weekend.

It’s been all the more incredible considering Ken Hinkley went into 2023 as one of the coaches most under pressure in a contract year as both parties have stuck to their agreeing of parking talks until August.

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But Hinkley is now arguably coaching as well as ever with improved weaponry behind by a new-look midfield of Zak Butters, Connor Rozee and Jason Horne-Francis to breathe fresh life on field in an exciting new era.

The revitalised club is now daring to dream about winning a second AFL premiership in what’d go down as one of the most remarkable flags of recent times.

Does the storyline remind you of anything?

The Power have enjoyed a shock surge to second spot on the ladder (Photo by Sarah Reed/AFL Photos via Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Port Adelaide has mirrored Collingwood’s epic 2022 run with the way it’s unexpectedly — and somewhat imperfectly — bounced back to the top of the ladder with sheer momentum and a spirited winning streak filled with close triumphs.

And so this Saturday night, Hinkley’s side has something of a date with destiny against a more advanced version of itself when it faces off with the Magpies in a mouth-watering top-two showdown at Adelaide Oval, with both sides at full strength,.

Craig McRae’s side was the surprise riser of last year — and probably got a bit of luck on the way — even if it consistently proved it could find a way to get home in tight games.

But there’s nothing lucky about what Collingwood is doing right now, sitting first on the ladder at 15-2 with a more well-rounded game.

Not only have the Magpies shown more of a killer instinct compared to last year, they’ve still maintained their uncanny ability to win close games.

There’s something poetic about the Power needing to beat last year’s fairytale side — but a more refined iteration — for it to continue its own dream surge — and maybe even have claim to being the flag favourite and team to beat. If not for last week’s loss to Carlton, Port would be playing for top spot on the ladder, too.

No matter, Port Adelaide gets its best chance yet to make a proper statement to the rest of the competition and validate its flag credentials. But if it goes the other way, this Collingwood juggernaut will look even more almighty.

The Power are mirroring Collingwood’s dream run (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)Source: FOX SPORTS

Throw in the bubbling Prison Bar jumper feud between the two clubs and this blockbuster showdown — much like the respective sides’ stories — is the stuff of dreams … maybe even a grand final preview.

Of course, this is the second time these clubs have faced off this year, with the Magpies demolishing the Power by 71 points at the MCG in their Round 2 meeting.

That really does feel like so long ago now though, and in addition to the shift in venue, so much has changed at Port Adelaide since amid its meteoric rise and uncompromising belief built.

For four-time premiership Hawk Jordan Lewis, there’s a big emotional element riding on the result being at the pointy end of the season.

“I think the emotion around these games — because it’s so close to the start of the finals series — they’ll come up against each other (again) at some point in time, (it) absolutely inflicts some mental scars right now,” Lewis said on Fox Footy’s AFL 360.

“I think the hardest thing in these games is the tactical side. What do you want to show right now and what do you want to hold back? What can you learn from the game?

“(But) The emotion, I think you put everything out there, both sides, absolutely everything.

“Imagine Collingwood going over there and winning against Port Adelaide on their home deck. The mental edge they’ve got if they then come back at the MCG (would be) huge.”

The Magpies and Power are set to face off in an enthralling top-two battle (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)Source: FOX SPORTS

There’s one potential battle within the battle that, if they matchup, would be particularly enthralling — Nick Daicos v Zak Butters.

The breakout superstars perhaps best exemplify the emergence of their respective clubs and as the new faces of either side.

Two of the top Brownlow contenders, the pair also embody the shift of the modern-day superstar — and game at large — from the contested, big-bodied ball-winner who smashes through stoppages to the more slick, power-running and death-touch marvel who can break a game open.

Whichever way the result goes, you sense Daicos or Butters will have a fair say on it.

Tigers champion Jack Riewoldt called for the coaches to pit the two together on Saturday night in a good old fashioned head-to-head.

“We copped Dangerfield v Fyfe, I think it might’ve been six or seven years ago, and they went head-to-head. I’d send Zak Butters to (Daicos),” Riewoldt said on Fox Footy’s AFL 360 Plus.

“At the moment, I probably think these two young men and leading the Brownlow Medal. Why not give us, on the greatest stage, one of the greatest matchups?

“I’m an attacking person and think that would be fantastic, but I don’t think we will see it.

“There’s so many little battles we’re going to pick apart on Saturday night … Nick Daicos is 20 years of age and he’s the Brownlow favourite for the reason.“

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There is of course one big difference between to the 2022 Magpies and 2023 Power with the way their coaches were and are at the extreme opposite ends of the spectrum.

And both have equally brilliant narratives in their own right.

Last year, McRae was coaching in just his first season at in a new chapter at Collingwood. He quickly won the hearts of fans — and the footy world at large — leading the club’s new scintillating style on field and it’s more family-orientated approach off it.

It was wild for a first-year coach to succeed as quickly as McRae did, even though, looking back, perhaps all the club needed was a fresh voice.

Compare it to Hinkley, who, as mentioned, is out of contract and was under the upmost pressure in his 11th season in charge, having never guided the club beyond the preliminary final hurdle and after it dropped out of the top eight last year.

It seemed near impossible for Hinkley to retain his position in 2024 barring some form a miracle — and some form of a miracle he’s delivered.

Unlike Collingwood last year though, the Power’s dream run isn’t necessarily over yet, even if their winning streak is.

But when two tians clash on Saturday night, it might well not be the for the last time this year.

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