When Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley became a referee for Kane Cornes’ fire brigade application, he didn’t expect to lose the decorated AFL midfielder so soon.
But Cornes will end his stellar AFL career in a fortnight after his 300th game, against Richmond on May 24, after joining the fire brigade.
“It’s my fault,” Hinkley grinned on Thursday. “I pushed you out. I spoke honestly, unfortunately.”
The 32-year-old Cornes last November was among 1500 applicants for 11 training spots with the Metropolitan Fire Service – with Hinkley a referee.
“It’s probably one of the reasons I got in,” Cornes told reporters on Thursday.
But Hinkley is pragmatic about the mid-season loss of his master tagger, saying Cornes’ position will be filled as the evolution of Port continues.
“We’re not one player away (from success) … and that’s just the way footy is, the way it goes,” Hinkley said.
“There’s young players right now who would be quite excited. They would be seeing an opportunity from their point of view.”
Cornes sees his next opportunity as two chunks of fire brigade training before October.
A four-time club champion, 2004 premiership player and club games record holder, Cornes hesitated at leaving his teammates mid-season.
But the durable midfielder, renowned for shutting opposition stars, also felt the AFL was starting to slip beyond him.
“That was the thing that I agonised over the most, the thing that I spoke to Ken about me leaving, how would that impact the team and their chances,” Cornes said.
“There were no guarantees that I was going to be playing good enough footy to play in a premiership for Port Adelaide. And maybe that would have been a selfish decision to try to hang on for that.
“When you play a certain standard for a long time, only players that get to that point can tell you that there’s just a feeling you get that something is just not quite right.”