FOR newly crowned Port Adelaide club champion Patrick Ryder, the John Cahill Medal is the silver lining to an enforced year out of football.
And the All-Australian lead ruckman hopes the new inspiration he has found in being denied the chance to play in AFL catches on with his Power team-mates as they consider what they deprived themselves in losing a home final in extra time to West Coast last month.
“When something is taken away – something that means so much to you – you realise how much you love it,” said Ryder, after claiming his first Power club champion title by outpolling key forward Charlie Dixon 241-234 in a tight count at the Adelaide Convention Centre.
Ryder, 29, had all of the 2016 wiped out by the WADA-imposed penalty that followed him from Essendon. Power coach Ken Hinkley describes this as a year “cheated” from Ryder.
But Ryder notes his return to lead the Port Adelaide rucks – and become an All-Australian – was heavily motivated by that year on the sidelines.
“As a player, this year, I wanted to show my love for the game – and my team-mates,” said Ryder, who polled votes in 21 of his 22 matches.
“A lot of good came out of having the year off. I came back fitter, stronger – and wanting it a lot more. It is just an amazing feeling for me (to be club champion), particularly when this club has been so good to me since I stepped foot in the door (in 2015).”
Ryder is now inspired by the pain of an elimination final lost in extra time at Adelaide Oval.
“Those games hurt so much,” Ryder said. “It definitely makes you hungrier to come back – and I can’t wait to get back to training to put in a great pre-season.”
Ryder feels further inspired by the prospect of working to a deeper midfield with the AFL trade period this month promising to deliver free agents Tom Rockliff (Brisbane) and Steven Motlop (Geelong).
Rockliff bound for Port
“As a ruckman, you love having quality mids underneath you,’ Ryder said.
Ryder was handed by Hinkley the challenge of being Port Adelaide’s No. 1 ruckman on the eve of his return from the WADA ban after the pair met in a cafe.
“I could have dance down the street (from the cafe) to my home,” Ryder recalled.
“I’ve always believed I’m best as a ruckman,” added Ryder who had a career-high 831 hit-outs this year. “To be All-Australian, that cements (that confidence) more. It has been a massive year – and one I am looking forward to building on.”
Port Adelaide honoured the late Bruce Weber, who was club president during the club’s failed bid to enter the AFL in 1990, with life membership. Premiership coach John Cahill recognised Weber as a man “who wanted what was best for Port Adelaide”.