For six months, the question hung like thick fog over Port Adelaide: are they the real AFL deal?
In one hour of intense footy action on Saturday, the Power emphatically answered by toppling reigning premiers Richmond by 21 points.
The Adelaide Oval triumph solidifies Port's position at the top of the ladder - a position they have held since after the opening round in March.
And the 13.15 (93) to 11.6 (72) win removes any query over Port's credentials - though coach Ken Hinkley couldn't give two hoots.
"I don't care. We don't care," Hinkley said of the 'real deal' question.
"We care about performance and being consistent.
"We're 11 games in. We're sitting on top of the ladder with a game (win) clear, with the best percentage in the competition.
"It takes a lot to earn that. And we have been able to keep at it and keep earning.
"We haven't played perfect footy ... and we have still got six (matches) to go and we have got keep going, that is the challenge."
Hinkley was unwilling to talk up his club's achievement but his Richmond counterpart Damien Hardwick was less circumspect.
"They were very, very good," Hardwick said of Port.
"I love the way they play. They attack the game.
"If I sit there and look at one of the sides I would pay money to watch, they would be one of those sides."
Port thrice repelled Richmond fightbacks in a pressure-packed encounter.
The Power booted four goals to none in the initial 14 minutes, only for Richmond to climb off the ropes and hit the front midway through the second quarter.
Port rallied to create a 21-point buffer early in the third term, before the gallant Tigers came again and, courtesy of four unanswered goals, pinched a one-point lead at three quarter-time.
The Power then broke the game, and the Tigers, with another burst of three goals in a tick over four minutes to open the last quarter against a flagging opponent.
The Tigers, playing after a four-day break, didn't score at all in the final term but coach Hardwick dismissed the short gap between games as a factor.
"We were really happy with effort and intent ... I didn't detect our energy levels went down," Hardwick said.
Port's triple club champion Robbie Gray (three goals, 22 disposals) vies for best-afield honours with teammate Travis Boak (31 touches) in a game coach Hinkley described as a "great advertisement for AFL football in a really tough year".
Australian Associated Press