For the first time in 15 years since their great dust-up in the 2004 grand final, the rivalry between Port Adelaide and Brisbane is of AFL heavyweight status again as the Power and Lions meet at the Gabba on Saturday night as unbeaten teams.
For the first time in 15 years since their great dust-up in the 2004 grand final, the rivalry between Port Adelaide and Brisbane is of AFL heavyweight status again as the Power and Lions meet at the Gabba on Saturday night as unbeaten teams.

Match of the day? Power, Lions back in spotlight

GAME of the AFL round this week? Brisbane v Port Adelaide, the battle of the unbeaten.

Yes, there is a grand final rematch with the loser, Collingwood, strangely scoring home rights head of the champion, West Coast.

There is the "train wreck" Friday Night Football special of the winless Essendon and Melbourne with the loser, at 0-3, to be considered out of reasonable contention for September's top-eight finals.

There is the Greater Western Sydney-Richmond game in west Sydney to see which team rebounds best from heavy losses ... and how the Tigers stand without the grand All-Australian bookends of key forward Jack Riewoldt and key defender Alex Rance.

But the Gabba - with the Saturday night timeslot - has second (Brisbane) v third (Port Adelaide) and a throwback to 2004 when the Lions and Power were the AFL pacesetters.

It might not have appeared so epic when the fixture was put together in October, but today this match has the potential to change perceptions of what is to unfold in September.

This is the first Port Adelaide-Brisbane game with the Power and Lions so highly placed on the AFL ladder since Round 11, 2004. Then Brisbane was third, Port Adelaide was fourth each with 7-3 win-loss records before playing another grudge match at the Gabba.

While Port Adelaide's natural AFL rival is home-town neighbour Adelaide, the most-enduring rivalry is with the Lions.

Brisbane absorbed Fitzroy, shed the Bears image and became the Lions in 1997 to free up a licence for Port Adelaide. The first two Lions-Power games at the Gabba ended in draws.

There was an extraordinary battle for supremacy between Mark Williams and Leigh Matthews (with an underlying personal rivalry dating back to Matthews' rise to senior coach at Collingwood in 1986 and Williams' exit as captain to join Brisbane).

There were epic battles in the home-and-away series from 2001-2004 that concluded with the Power and Lions finally colliding in a grand final, won by Port Adelaide to end Brisbane's remarkable three-peat.

Since that 2004 grand final, the combined success with the Power and Lions amounts to one grand final (2007, lost by Port Adelaide); six finals series (five with the Power, one with the Lions) and the AFL needing to save both licences from significant financial pain.

And even in the dark hours for both clubs across 2008-2012 - with former captains, Michael Voss and Matthew Primus, as coaches - there remarkable clashes despite the games having low billings and empty seats at the Gabba and Football Park.

If the AFL - with its equalisation policies with the draft and salary cap - is to put the 18 clubs on an 18-year cycle for sharing success, the moment is coming for a renewed match race to the flag between the Lions and Power.

Brisbane has solidified its football program with the sound off-field combination of coach Chris Fagan and football boss David Noble - and Fagan allowing the Lions players to take ownership of their team.

Port Adelaide also has had player power significantly - and positively - influence the club's on-field destiny.

It feels like 2001 again ... all true to that 18-year clock at AFL House.