Ken Hinkley hasn’t had time to reflect on Port Adelaide’s rags to riches story – and anyway, he’s not overly keen on it.
Hinkley knows he delivered the Power much-needed respect in his first season as an AFL head coach.
But on the eve of a new season, Port’s stunning rise from basket case to the semi-finals last season is very much in the past.
“You have got to quickly switch from where it was, to what is coming,” Hinkley told AAP.
“We’d like to be able to spend a little bit more time enjoying it but we don’t get that chance – the industry is brutal, it’s demanding.”
When Hinkley was appointed coach for the 2013 season, Port was broken. Off the field, propped up by AFL funds; on the field, easy-beats.
But Hinkley oversaw the AFL’s feel-good story of the season with a simple, no nonsense mantra – team first, total effort and never give up.
After winning 12 and losing 10 minor round games, Port made the finals – and downed heavyweights Collingwood in an elimination bout before falling to Geelong in a semi-final.
But Hinkley isn’t one to bask.
“The first thing as a club that we needed to do was just build some respect … we made significant steps,” he said.
“But we know we have got a long way to go, a real long way to go.
“We can’t sit still. The mountain gets bigger and we have got to climb higher – that is just what this game is about. We have to demand improvement from all of us.”
Hinkley took a first step towards improving Port by recruiting ex-Brisbane onballer Jared Polec and ex-Richmond utility Matthew White to add some polish and outside speed.
The duo offer depth to a midfield featuring stand-out skipper Travis Boak, the experience of Brad Ebert, Kane Cornes, Hamish Hartlett, Dom Cassisi and Matthew Broadbent, and rising talents like Ollie Wines.
“We have got a really promising midfield – but promise doesn’t deliver,” said Hinkley, whose director of coaching Alan Richardson has left to take up St Kilda’s head coaching role.
While Hinkley lauded his unheralded defence, Port’s attacking players stole last season’s limelight – none moreso than Chad Wingard, a 19-year-old who won a club best and fairest award and All Australian jumper in just his second season.
“He stood up when the stakes were at the highest,” Hinkley said.
Wingard potted 43 goals last season, complementing Jay Schulz (49 goals), Angus Monfries (39) and Justin Westhoff (31) – a quartet to again underpin Port’s attack this season.
Port’s backline has taken a hit with key defender Jackson Trengove in doubt for the start of the premiership season with knee bruising.
And talented young ruckman Jarrad Redden won’t be sighted until midway through the season due to knee surgery, an absence made lighter by Matthew Lobbe’s emergence as Port’s leading ruck.
“He’s not just a good ruckman … he’s that type of player that just helps you go in the right direction in everything you do,” Hinkley said.
Just what direction Port take this season will, by Hinkley’s reckoning, be decided by one thing – effort.
“My job is to make sure that we do turn up again and that we compete. Our effort has got to be where it needs to be,” he said.
“Outside expectation, draws, scrutiny – all the things that people want to talk about – no control for me. I can only control what effort I think we should bring and how we play.”
Coach: Ken Hinkley
Captain: Travis Boak
Last five years: 10-10-16-14-5
Premierships: 1 (2004)
Key five: Chad Wingard, Travis Boak, Justin Westhoff, Hamish Hartlett, Robbie Gray.
One to watch: Jared Polec. A prized recruit, Port intend unlocking the potential which led to Brisbane drafting him with pick five in the 2010. The 21-year-old will get instant opportunities, with his speed on the outside of packs filling a midfield void.
Ins: Karl Amon (Sandringham U18), Darcy Byrne-Jones (Oakleigh U18), Mitch Harvey (North Adelaide SANFL), Jarman Impey (Murray U18), Jared Polec (Brisbane Lions), Matt White (Richmond).
Outs: Nathan Blee (delisted), Brett Ebert (retired), Nick Salter (delisted), Daniel Stewart (delisted), Matt Thomas (Richmond rookie list).
Best 22: B: Jackson Trengove, Alipate Carlile, Tom Jonas
HB: Jasper Pittard, Cam O’Shea, Dom Cassisi
C: Jared Polec, Travis Boak, Brad Ebert
HF: Robbie Gray, Justin Westhoff, Chad Wingard
F: Angus Monfries, Jay Schulz, Jake Neade
R: Matthew Lobbe, Matthew Broadbent, Hamish Hartlett
I: Kane Cornes, Paul Stewart, Ollie Wines, Matt White
Predicted finish: 10th
To win the flag: $26
To make the top eight: $2.30