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Hinkley: "I'm a better coach than I was in 2013"

Football

After two failed AFL seasons, coach Ken Hinkley has made a raft of changes at Port Adelaide.

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He’s set a sharper focus on key areas in the club’s football department – game style, skills, ball movement, leadership, player education.

And he’s worked on the mental aspects of his charges, as much as the physical.

“We have done lots different,” Hinkley said.

“And we have done some changes to game style which obviously I won’t sit here and talk to you about.

“But we have sharpened our view on four or five really, really important areas to our game. And hopefully we will get some results from that.”

After reaching the finals in Hinkley’s initial two seasons, Port missed the play-offs in the past two years.

Because of the middling results – 10th last year, ninth the year prior – Hinkley said any talk was now cheap.

“We want to let the way we play do most of our speaking,” he said.

But Hinkley disagreed with most pundits who put Port again in the middle of the road.

“We start the year trying to be part of the finals. And that is our absolute goal,” he said.

“And we believe we can make it. We believe if we get a decent run and we perform near our best, we think that is good enough to be playing finals in 2017.

“And that is our hope and our need and our desire.”

Hinkley is comfortable with Port’s midfield which boasts considerable top-end talent – Robbie Gray, Travis Boak, Ollie Wines, Brad Ebert.

Returning ruck Paddy Ryder is available again after being among Essendon’s 2012 players banned for a season; speedsters Jared Polec and Matthew White will feature after injury-marred seasons past.

I’m a better coach today and I have to be a better coach tomorrow again

The mercurial Chad Wingard will be deployed for longer stints in the midfield and Hinkley is “bullish” about what draftees Sam Powell-Pepper and Joe Atley can offer.

“If we play to our best, our midfield depth looks strong… we are also bullish about the players that came in and played at the back end of last year,” Hinkley said, referring to the likes of Darcy Byrne-Jones, Logan Austin and Tom Clurey, who will help underpin a new-look backline this year.

“There is no doubt we’re young in the back half… but we have got (Hamish) Hartlett going back there as well, we have got (Matthew) Broadbent – they are two really senior players – (Jasper) Pittard has played 100 games.

“Albeit they are only 25 and 26 year olds, we are youngish but we are have got some good experience.”

Hinkley’s forward line will revolve around key target Charlie Dixon, Justin Westhoff and Aaron Young with Jackson Trengove also to be stationed in attack this season.

But Hinkley said for Port to return to the finals, improvement must come from everyone – coach included.

“I think I’m a better coach sitting here right now today than I was in 2013, than I was any time in 2014, than I was any time in the last couple of years,” he said.

“I’m a better coach today and I have to be a better coach tomorrow again.

“So my challenge is to continue to look for improvement in myself as well as the rest of my football staff.”

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Hinkley addressing his charges. Photo: Michael Errey / InDaily

It’s a challenge that may yet be a work in progress come the start of the season, with defender Jack Hombsch yesterday calling for patience as Power players try to adopt a fresh game plan.

Port have lost their two pre-season games, with Hombsch admitting players have so far failed to implement Hinkley’s new structures.

“It’s obviously going to take a little bit of time, as we have seen in the last two practice games,” he told reporters.

“We have come in with a pretty new structure this pre-season and it takes games to get used to it.

“You can practise it so much on the training track but you need to play games of footy to really implement it.”

Hombsch said players were in no doubt about what is required under Hinkley’s new plans .

“We’re all over it internally. And as players we know exactly what Kenny wants from us,” he said.

“We have just got to transfer that onto the park.”

Hombsch said the changes were designed to showcase Port’s strengths.

We have got to get creative as players

“When we get it going the way we want it to, it’s certainly an exciting, free-running type of footy,” he said.

“We have just been a bit stuck at the moment at times going down the line. And that is where we have got to get creative as players.”

The Power host Hawthorn on Sunday in the last round of pre-season games, with hamstrung Broadbent still unavailable and fellow defender Pittard to miss the month after being injured last weekend.

“It’s a good challenge because Jasper and Broady are very good players and very important players for us, so it gives us an opportunity for us to test our depth,” Hombsch said.

“We have got a lot of young guys coming through… so it gives those guys an opportunity to play three games of footy in a row and have a real crack at it.”

-AAP

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