Charlie's got the Power to succeed
CHARLIE Dixon might be revered by Port Adelaide supporters now, but it wasn't always the case.
He had arrived at Alberton at the end of 2015 on a fat contract that opened him up to feeling the wrath of passionate Power fans if he wasn't performing.
Dixon remembers only too well the less-than-warm welcome he got in South Australia, where the public lives and breathes footy.
For a normally laid-back country lad from Cairns, it was a whole new world.
"(I was) coming from the Gold Coast, where no one really knew who you were, there's no pressure on you from the outside," the 27-year-old recalled.
"Down here it was relentless ... social media, it was everywhere. If you don't have a very good game, fans, and everyone, love to let you know.
"That was hard to deal with. The same with my family, they found it pretty tough ... some of the stuff that was said."
A late bloomer who had played basketball in the far north, Dixon was brought over by coach Ken Hinkley, previously in charge of the forwards at the Gold Coast Suns, in the hope he could finally fulfil his potential in the teal, black and white.
The towering 200cm crash-and-bash key forward was the first player signed by the Suns and kicked their first AFL goal, but his five years at the top level had amounted only to glimpses of his undoubted talent - largely due to injury setbacks.
A knee injury sidelined him for part of his first summer with the Power, and then an ankle injury late in the 2016 season slowed him again.
Fans were left frustrated by their new spearhead, who in turn decided to ignore the outside chatter.
"At the end of my pre-season the following year (2017), I just took the attitude, 'I don't give a s--- what anyone says'," he said.
"As long as my coaches and teammates are happy with the way I'm going (that's all that matters)."
From there, Dixon enjoyed a career-best season. He played all 23 games last year - and a first final - booting 49 goals, including a haul of five and five bags of four. He also was second in the AFL in contested marking.
It wasn't just due to positive thinking though.
"The body has become more durable and able put up with the punishment I put it through," he said.
"And also the sports medical staff (at Port) is second to none, given me a really good strength and conditioning program, held me in good stead.
"Having confidence in my body is awesome."
It's safe to say Dixon has won over the Power's legion of die-hard fans.
Pressure though remains squarely on the team, which has stormed into premiership calculations on the back of an outstanding trade period and a win last Saturday over the Swans in Sydney to give them a 2-0 start.
"There's always going to be that pressure from fans, especially down here where it's a bubble ... they love it, it's their life," Dixon said.
"I did struggle with that in my first year, where you're under the microscope. There's pressure at the moment but the way we're playing I think we can hold up to it. They love it when we win, that's for sure."
Dixon will spend more time away from the forward line for now, instead pinch-hitting in the ruck following an achilles injury to No.1 big man Paddy Ryder.
"I've got to do what I need to for the team," Dixon said ahead of a possible clash with Stefan Martin when the Power hosts the Brisbane Lions today.
"With Patty going down I've just got to step up and do my bit.
"I was happy to go up for the contest (against the Swans) and throw my body around, and be able to get the ball."
Todd Marshall has so far filled the void in attack, kicking seven goals in the opening two rounds. Then there's Chad Wingard, Robbie Gray and recruits Jack Watts and Steven Motlop.
"I think we've got one of the best forward lines in the comp at the moment," Dixon said. "It doesn't matter who it is, we'll have blokes who can score multiple goals. As long as we're winning, I don't care who's kicking them."
Suffice to say, Dixon has warmed to Adelaide. "Early it was a bit of a struggle ... but I'm settled in, I love Adelaide."