Port Adelaide vice-captain Brad Ebert says he was always confident the club could become an AFL giant.
The Power were on their knees at the end of 2011 when Ebert decided to leave West Coast and return home.
Port Adelaide finished 16th that season and it didn't get much better the following year when they won just five games, home crowds crashed to an average of less than 20,000 and Matthew Primus was sacked as coach.
But after surging into the finals last year, the Power continue to take giant strides and last week crashed through the 50,000- member barrier.
Their 50,535 paid-up supporters is the seventh-highest tally in the AFL and closing in on Adelaide's 53,026 and heading towards West Coast, who have just passed 54,000 members.
"The atmosphere around our games is really lifting," Ebert said. "That's something they've really pushed and made sure the playing group is playing some really exciting and good footy.
"It's been a big change from when I first got back here to what it is now. It's an exciting time.
"The stadium we're playing at is world-class. You're running out on to Adelaide Oval which is holding 55,000 people and really has a good buzz about it.
"Knowing what Port Adelaide was like and hearing about the support it used to have, I always thought it could be a really strong team in the competition."
Third-placed Power clash with fourth-placed West Coast at Patersons Stadium on Saturday night.
Both teams had dramatically different performances last weekend, the Eagles failing to kick a goal after quarter time against Geelong, while Port Adelaide belted Brisbane by 113 points.
The Power's three wins this year have been against Carlton (17th), Adelaide (15th) and Brisbane (18th), raising doubts about the authenticity of their ladder position. Matches against the Eagles, Geelong and Fremantle in the next month will provide a better guide.
But Ebert said players originally thought their first four weeks would be a huge test.
"We went in thinking we were playing some pretty tough competition and where they're sitting on the ladder at the moment, I don't think is a true reflection of where they'll finish up at the end of the year," he said.
"This month coming up is a fair test to us. West Coast are in some pretty good form. Obviously on the weekend they weren't in good form but they're not going to accept that loss."
Ebert praised the club's midfield depth which has been led by captain Travis Boak, who had a career-high 41 disposals last weekend. He said Boak reminded him of a young Darren Glass.
"Obviously having Glassy as a captain, I think he's one of the best in the competition," he said.
"Boaky in his second year, I think he's showing he has those leadership qualities as well and he can take charge in a game and of his players as well.
"He's been fantastic."
West Coast are in some pretty good form they're not going to accept that loss." *Brad Ebert *