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Recognising Traditions, And Breaking Them - Port Adelaide's 150th Anniversary

The Port Adelaide Football Club, South Australia’s oldest football club, will mark its 150th anniversary next season and is currently in the midst of organising how best to acknowledge it.

The club is expecting – and planning – to introduce a team in the newly-established AFL Women’s Competition as early as 2021, one year after it celebrates 150 years of playing men’s football.

Port Adelaide is one of just four AFL teams yet to have been awarded an AFLW license. The others are Essendon, Hawthorn and Sydney. 

Port Adelaide co-captain Tom Jonas said he is excited to see the Power a part of AFLW, that will exist as a fourteen-team competition in 2020.

“I think it’s a natural progression for our club and we’ve seen the growth (of AFLW) and speed of that growth. So, it’d be great to be a part of it,” Jonas said.

Jonas also said he was excited about the impact the introduction of a Port Adelaide AFLW team would have on aspiring women’s footballers.

“It’d be great for the young girls that have supported Port Adelaide their whole lives and really give them something to aspire to and get involved with,” Jonas said.

The move towards women’s football would be a significant moment in the club’s long history, but not the only break in tradition of recent times.

In February, fans were left polarised after Jonas and former vice-captain Ollie Wines were appointed club co-captains.

The move marked the first time in the club’s history it did not have a sole captain.

However, Jonas said the advantages of the club’s joint leadership approach is the ability to “combine a lot of attributes to cast a wider net.”

Jonas said he and Wines “complement each other reasonably well” due to his nature of being “more likely to have the tough conversations while Ollie can empathise more with people.”

“So, I think it’s a bit of a ying and yang.”

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In amongst an era of change, Port Adelaide is still seeking for its iconic ‘prison bars’ guernesy, originally worn in 1902 in the SANFL, to form part of its 150th anniversary season.

Jonas has thrown his personal support around the push but said the matter was ultimately for the club’s commercial team and the AFL.

“I personally love the tradition of being able to wear the prison bars and I’ve noticed there’s a petition getting around, if we can bring it back that’d be great.”

Despite, the #BringBackTheBars petition that has now reached more than 8,000 signatures, Port Adelaide does not wish to bring back the jumper, currently worn by its reserves team competing in the SANFL, as its permanent home strip.

Instead, the club wishes to use for the guernesy for Showdowns from 2020 onwards.

However, this has been a challenging campaign due to the move being blocked by influential Collingwood President Eddie McGuire who has consistently claimed Port’s prison bars jumper is too similar to that of Collingwood’s.

Although, despite McGuire’s claims, he does not have an agreement with the AFL and Port Adelaide that bars the Power from wearing its famous jumper, according to award-winning journalist from The Advertiser Michelangelo Rucci.

Rucci told this author that “there is no agreement, just an AFL that fears Collingwood.”

“Eddie thinks he can bluff people… if he has an agreement, put it on the table.”

McGuire told Adelaide radio station SEN SA that Port Adelaide needs to come up with an alternative prison bars design that does not “offend” Collingwood but instead “brings the clubs together.”

McGuire suggested replacing the prison bars’ colours of black and white, with magenta and teal, a proposal viewed as disrespectful inside of Port Adelaide and will not be considered.

In 2006, Port Adelaide was infamously refused the right to wear its prison bars guernesy for the AFL’s 80s themed Heritage Round, meaning it was unable to participate.

The following year in 2007, it reached an agreement with the AFL that it could wear the prison bars for all future heritage rounds on the proviso it was not against Collingwood.

Remarkably, there have been no heritage rounds staged since the agreement was struck.

In 2014, Port Adelaide’s request to wear the prison bars was again declined.

This time it related to celebrating the 100th anniversary of the club’s 1914 Champions of Australia triumph over Carlton, in which the club also had an undefeated and premiership winning SANFL season.

The final time the jumper has been worn at AFL level was the Power’s elimination final against Richmond, the first AFL final staged at Adelaide Oval.

After the game, McGuire proclaimed Port Adelaide will “never again” be allowed to wear the guernesy in the AFL.

Ironically, Eddie McGuire prohibiting the Power from wearing the prison bars has caused a greater affinity with the jumper amongst Port Adelaide supporters, causing the guernesy to become a symbol of defiance against the Victorian control of the AFL.

The more things change at Alberton, the more things stay the same.

But as the fight for their history reignites, being dictated to by Collingwood, is perhaps the tradition it most desperately wants to break.

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