Rockliff to bolster Port's AFL engine room

Tom Rockliff is upbeat about his return from a shoulder reconstruction for Port Adelaide.
Tom Rockliff is upbeat about his return from a shoulder reconstruction for Port Adelaide.

Having passed a Sam Powell-Pepper fitness test, Tom Rockliff is eyeing a return to the coalface to help lift Port Adelaide back into AFL finals contention.

Rockliff is set to reclaim the predominantly inside-midfield role he made his own before departing Brisbane as a free agent at the end of 2017.

The former Lions captain has recovered well from having his left shoulder reconstructed for the second time in as many years at the end of last season.

A return to full-contact training - and a heavy hit from the bullocking Powell-Pepper - has given Rockliff confidence in his body after a disrupted 2018.

"I feel like I'm much further in front of where I was this time last year," Rockliff told reporters on Wednesday.

"I've been in full contact now for two or three weeks and been hit quite hard.

"Peps got me the other day. He blindsided me and it felt really good, so I've passed a Sam Powell-Pepper fitness test and my body feels good."

Rockliff was rotated between the midfield and forward line last season but has trained exclusively in the midfield this pre-season.

The former All-Australian hopes to recapture his best form after struggling to assert himself in his first season with Port.

"Probably I was a little bit tentative at times last year because I didn't want to step on the boys' toes," he said.

"I feel like we're in a much better position to give it a fair dinkum crack this year and I feel like I'm in a much better position being in the system for 12 months, knowing the boys but also (having) confidence in the body."

Port, who finished a disappointing 2018 season in 10th place, will soon unveil their new captain to replace veteran Travis Boak.

Young gun Ollie Wines is favourite to take the reins but the Power could appoint co-captains, with fullback Tom Jonas another leadership contender.

Rockliff added defender Hamish Hartlett was close to returning to full training after tearing his ACL last season.

The Power will monitor the fitness of star forward Robbie Gray, who has been withdrawn from the AFLX exhibition after reporting knee soreness.

Australian Associated Press