ADELAIDE AAP – Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley is getting back to basics.
Hinkley enters his fourth year as Power coach seeking a return to the AFL finals after missing last season’s playoffs.
And he’s simplifying Port’s approach, saying things got over-complicated last year.
“Our learnings were that there is a way that works for us and we need to stay with that and not try to be too tricky,” Hinkley told AAP.
“Maybe we were trying to focus on too many other parts of the game when what makes us play well is when we get A and B right, not worry about C, D and E.”
Hinkley said from the bad of finishing ninth came some good: a longer pre-season to focus on Port’s foundations: team defence, winning contested possession and fitness levels rated league-best.
But it hasn’t been smooth sailing.
Port are without two former Essendon players, ruckman Paddy Ryder and forward Angus Monfries, both banned over the Bombers’ 2012 supplements program.
“It’s done. It’s not a distraction any more,” Hinkley said of the saga.
It leaves him without a canny forward and a proven ruckman to support workhorse Matthew Lobbe, but Hinkley said Port’s list profile – ninth in age and seventh for games played in the competition – was ripe.
“It doesn’t give us any guarantees. But we do know that success usually comes to the most mature and the most experienced teams more often than not,” he said.
Hinkley’s midfield and attack brim with top-end talent.
His midfield boasts inspirational captain Travis Boak, mercurial Robbie Gray and Hamish Hartlett and Brad Ebert – and he’ll call on Ollie Wines and Jared Polec, who missed 10 and 17 games respectively last season through injury.
Hinkley expects a batch of onballers including Sam Gray and Brendon Ah Chee to emerge, while throwing ex-Melbourne recruit Jimmy Toumpas into the mix.
Port also lured another trumpcard in key forward Charlie Dixon from Gold Coast.
Dixon will team with fellow attacking talls Jay Schulz and Justin Westhoff while precocious Chad Wingard, the goal-smart Grays, Jake Neade and Matt White will snap at their feet.
“Those sort of players will cause a significant amount of hari-kari when it hits the floor,” Hinkley said.
“But the names don’t mean much, the collective unit means a lot if they work together.”
And Hinkley, unlike many pundits, is comfortable with his defence.
“A lot of people question our defence … but from our point of view we think our defence is really solid,” he said.
Built around tall pillars Alipate Carlile and Jackson Trengove, the backline – Tom Jonas, Jack Hombsch, Cam O’Shea, Jasper Pittard and Matthew Broadbent – form a tough unit to crack.
Now, Hinkley wants them to help continue Port’s resurgence – when he signed as coach, the club had missed finals for five years and relied on league handouts to survive financially.
“It’s nice to reflect on that our footy club is relevant again,” he said.
“But with relevance comes pressure. You want to be relevant in a really good team, not just relevant because you managed to stave off the wolves.”
Coach: Ken Hinkley
Captain: Travis Boak
Last five years: 16-14-5-3-9
Premierships: 1 (2004)
Key five: Matthew Lobbe, Robbie Gray, Chad Wingard, Travis Boak, Alipate Carlile
One to watch: Charlie Dixon. The former Gold Coast key forward looms as the icing on an already impressive Port attack. Possesses a beast of a build, can split packs with his marking, yet is also clever when the ball hits the ground. If he can strike the right chemistry with fellow tall forwards Jay Schulz and Justin Westhoff, Dixon could be a genuine match-winner.
Ins: Riley Bonner (West Adelaide, SANFL), Charlie Dixon (Gold Goast), Sam Gray (rookie elevation), Cameron Hewett (North Adelaide, SANFL), Daniel Houston (Oakleigh U18), Aidyn Johnson (Bendigo U18), Will Snelling (West Adelaide, SANFL), Jimmy Toumpas (Melbourne)
Outs: Kane Cornes (retired), Daniel Flynn (delisted), Mitch Harvey (delisted), Tom Logan (delisted), Andrew Moore (Richmond), Jarrad Redden (delisted), Sam Russell (delisted), Mason Shaw (delisted), Johann Wagner (delisted)
B: Jack Hombsch, Alipate Carlile, Tom Jonas
HB: Jasper Pittard, Jackson Trengove, Matthew Broadbent
C: Brad Ebert, Hamish Hartlett, Jared Polec
HF: Chad Wingard, Justin Westhoff, Ollie Wines
F: Jay Schulz, Charlie Dixon, Matt White
R: Matthew Lobbe, Travis Boak, Robbie Gray
I: Brendon Ah Chee, Sam Gray, Jimmy Toumpas, Tom Clurey
Predicted finish: 8th
Betting (William Hill)
To win the flag: $13
To make the top eight: $1.50