Jack Watts has prospered with the "freedom" of playing in the SANFL but it hasn't been enough for him to earn a recall for a grudge match against his former club at the Adelaide Oval on Friday night.
Port Adelaide dropped Watts last week ahead of the clash against the Western Bulldogs but he responded well in the club's feeder side.
Watts, traded to the Power for a second-round draft selection last year after 153 games with the Demons, divided opinion at his former club. While he had moments where he reinforced why he was taken as a No.1 pick, he was blamed, often unfairly, for the club's slow rebuild and left as an unfulfilled talent.
He shaped as an intriguing sub-plot in the Power's crucial clash against the Demons but will have to wait until possibly the finals to face his former club, for they will not meet again in the home-and-away campaign.
The Power also had the option of handing Jack Trengove, the former Demons' co-captain, his debut game with his new club but they also resisted that thought.
Coach Ken Hinkley said Watts needed more time in the SANFL.
"If we separate them, Jack Trengove has been in great form all year and he is just waiting for an opportunity, probably our midfield group (has been) pretty strong, and Jack Watts, like we showed with Rocky (Tom Rockliff) earlier in the year, when you give them that break, you probably need to, unless you are forced into, you probably need to give them a little bit of time," he said.
"I think that works well for Jack (Watts). He played really well last week. I think it was the best game he has played for the season, almost, in some crucial areas for us, that was just his contest stuff and his ball use was really elite."
Hinkley confirmed on Thursday the Power would make only one change, that being defender Tom Jonas, returning from a hamstring injury, replacing Jack Hombsch.
In a year when the standard of Friday-night matches has been questioned, this shapes as the match of the round. The Demons are in fourth spot with eight wins, the same number of victories as the seventh-placed Power.
Demons coach Simon Goodwin has spoken about the "noise" which has emanated since his team was thumped by the Magpies in their Queen's Birthday clash, that being the Demons have yet to prove they can win on the big stage. They are 1-3 against top-eight sides this year but have won all four of their interstate matches.
Hinkley described the Demons as a "ready" team in the sense he felt they were ready to leave an imprint on the league.
"They are strong, their contested-ball stuff is outstanding, they have some dangers in their front half now, in (Jesse) Hogan and (Tom) McDonald kicking goals, running half backs. They have just got good balance. They are a ready team … I would call them a ready team, they are ready to play some high level football," he said.
Hinkley predicted there would be "fireworks out there early" in the midfield, for each club boasts hardnut midfielders who enjoy being physical.
"It's our contested work, we have really got back on top of that. (Friday) night is going to be great test because they are No.1 in the competition in that space and we are going to find out where we are at," he said.
One Power midfielder who hopes to have a key role is Ollie Wines, fresh from inking a four-year contract extension to remain at Alberton. Wines had 35 touches against the Bulldogs and could face a tag from his great mate, Jack Viney.
Hinkley had been confident Wines would resist lures to return home to Victoria, and he was proven right.
"I am super proud of the player, the person, and his commitment. As a football club, we have said culturally we have a group that would like to hang around and stay together. Ollie leads that charge now and certainly promotes it even more for us as a football club," he said.
Jon Pierik is a sports writer with The Age, focusing primarily on AFL football, cricket and basketball. He has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.
Most Viewed in Sport
Morning & Afternoon Newsletter