AFL Debate Club: Adelaide or Port Adelaide? Which club would you rather be?

RoCo: Don't stress, Swans fans, your club will be alright (2:30)

They've struggled in the first half of 2023, but with one of the AFL's younger lists, Rohan Connolly says the Swans are built for long-term success. (2:30)

Welcome to ESPN's AFL Debate Club, the column in which our writers and contributors will take one prompt from the week and put their opinion on the record. The kicker? No opinion is immune from criticism!

This week, Rohan Connolly and Jake Michaels look at the state of football in South Australia and decide which club is in a better position, both right now and into the future.

Adelaide or Port Adelaide? Which club would you rather be?

Rohan Connolly: You'd be OK with being either at the moment given Port Adelaide is in fourth spot and Adelaide eighth. But a choice? No disrespect intended to the Power, but I think I'd slightly prefer to be in Adelaide's position, not just in the context of this season, but looking ahead.

Granted, Port has won two more games. But the Crows did fix up the Power by 31 points in their Round 3 "Showdown", and have scored more and conceded fewer points than their crosstown rival. They've also been a serious winning chance quite late in every one of even their four defeats.

Their forward set-up is seriously potent with a great spread of goalkickers, no fewer than 12 individual goalkickers in Sunday's win over St Kilda. The defence punches above its weight. And I like the way Matthew Nicks has had his group improve a bit every year, from three wins in 2020, to seven wins, to eight, and already this season, five.

There's still enormous scope for improvement, too, with Adelaide's list in 2023 the second-youngest and second-least experienced in the AFL, behind only Hawthorn. The Crows have only four players older than 30, and two of them, Taylor Walker and Brodie Smith, are in some of the best form of their careers.

What I really like about Adelaide's demographics is the sheer volume of young talent, newer introductions like Max Michalanney, Josh Rachele, Luke Pedlar, Jake Soligo, Mitch Hinge effectively pushing the older likes of Darcy Fogarty, Chayce Jones, Ned McHenry etc. to a mid-tier leadership group.

I think overall, there's more young talent than Port Adelaide can boast, even allowing for the brilliance of Zak Butters and Connor Rozee et al, I think the Crows' group might ultimately be capable of more than the Power, and I think their "window" might be open considerably longer, too. So yes, I'd rather be Adelaide.

Jake Michaels: Sure, the future is important, but you know what always trumps it? The present.

Rohan, I'm with you on the Crows and have no doubt they'll be an exciting team in 2025, but so will Port Adelaide. What's more? Port's in the window right now and surely that has to give it the edge over its cross-town rival.

Since the Round 3 Showdown loss you mentioned, Ken Hinkley's side has not lost. The Power's riding a league-best six-game winning streak and you can certainly make the case it's playing as well as any team in the competition, not named Melbourne or Collingwood. This team ranks top five for scoring, marks inside 50 and clearances, and has also quieting become the best tackling outfit in the league, with 64 per game.

Port's in the enviable sweet spot of being the eighth-most experienced team by age, but fifth-most by games played, meaning the club has a great mix of young and old and is now reaping the rewards of getting games into its kids over the last few seasons.

There's no longer a reliance on players like Ollie Wines, Travis Boak and the recently retired Robbie Gray. Instead it's Zak Butters (22), Connor Rozee (23), Jason Horne-Francis (19) and Willem Drew (24) leading the charge through the midfield, as well as impacting on the scoreboard.

When fully fit, the forward line of Charlie Dixon, Todd Marshall, Jeremy Finlayson, Junior Rioli, Sam Powell-Pepper and even Darcy Byrne-Jones looks dangerous. The backline has always been among the competition's best.

Hinkley has been criticised at length for his inability to lead the Power to a Grand Final. Is this the year he breaks through? Maybe, maybe not, but if you're sitting in the top four heading into Round 10, you're doing plenty right and have to be considered 'in the mix'.