Port Adelaide have lost six of their past eight games to slip outside the top four and coach Ken Hinkley concedes the Power are not among the competition’s best after going down to second-placed Sydney.
They cling to fifth with fellow finals contenders North Melbourne, Essendon, Collingwood and Gold Coast closing the gap.
Hinkley said the Power’s inability to win crucial moments in games separates them from the top-tier sides.
“We are not good enough to be at the best and we’ve got to keep working to get better,” Hinkley said following the 26-point defeat to the Swans on Saturday night.
“Those key moments in games – those 10 moments in games – we’re still 7-3 or 8-2.
“Until we can get that to 5-5 and 6-4 in our favour we’re not going to win.”
With just three rounds remaining in the regular season, Hinkley remains hopeful his side can learn a few lessons from an elite team like Sydney and quickly turnaround their season before September action begins.
“We’ve had some great opportunities to experience it twice this year against Sydney we’ve had to experience it and we’ll learn each time,” he said.
“The key message to the boys is that we’ve got to keep learning.
“You have to listen really well and you’ve got to hear all of the message, not just the parts that sound good.”
Sydney coach John Longmire was pleased to see star on-baller Dan Hannebery return to action after a seven-week injury lay-off.
Hannebery had not played since round 13 when he tore a ligament his ankle but was productive in the win over the Power with 13 disposals and five tackles.
“He said he found it better the longer the game went on and that he felt full of run in the last quarter which is a good sign,” Longmire said.
“It’s not an easy thing to do to miss a fair bit of football and come back in at that tempo, playing that team, in front of that crowd, but he was able to handle it.”
Swans defender Nick Smith, who was a late withdrawal on Saturday, is expected back next week for the clash with St Kilda at the SCG.
Port will regain Matt White and Aaron Young from injury as they travel to Metricon Stadium next Saturday to meet Gold Coast.