While enjoying the view from the top of the AFL ladder, Port Adelaide stalwart Dom Cassisi can’t forget the dark days.
Cassisi was Port’s captain in four of five consecutive years when the club missed finals, a period when the club relied on AFL handouts to survive financially.
Home crowds in the bleak period dwindled to average about 20,000 – less than half of what the rejuvenated Port now attract to Adelaide Oval.
“I don’t really forget those times,” Cassisi told AAP on Tuesday.
“They keep you grounded because that is the way it can be.
“But at the same time it really motivates you to keep working hard so we don’t ever have to experience that again. It’s important to remember the tough times.
“Going through that period, you never want to go through it, but it does make you quite a resilient group. Everyone talks about how close we are as a group and no doubt it is due to the tough times.”
Port sit top of the table entering their bye this weekend, having accounted for powerhouses Geelong and Fremantle in the past three games.
“It just firms our belief in our game plan, our structures, and what we need to hang our hat on, which is the defensive side of our game – it holds up in games against good sides,” the 223-game veteran said.
“Those games have been finals intensity.
“And the experience we got in the finals last year with our young group was just priceless. The more times we get exposed to the high intensity games will keep us in good stead.”
Cassisi said Port’s ascension to the top of the table was tempered by their next fixture: reigning premier Hawthorn.
“It’s just such a tough competition. We only need to look to our next opponent which is Hawthorn, someone we aspire to be,” he said.
“We definitely don’t get ahead of ourselves. It’s round eight. We have got a long way to go.
“Our list is in a pretty healthy position in terms of injuries and we’re playing some pretty good footy.
“But we know that the season will throw challenges at us at some stage and we need to be prepared for it.”