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Hinkley rewards winning team as Clarko hurls grenades

Football

Port Adelaide’s improving fortunes were on display at the selection table this week, with the Power naming an unchanged lineup for tonight’s do-or-die clash with Hawthorn.

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Port have endured a disappointing campaign but have still managed to work their way into ninth spot on the AFL ladder, two games behind West Coast in eighth place.

The Power impressed in their 38-point defeat of Richmond last week and coach Ken Hinkley stuck with the same lineup despite some strong performances at SANFL level.

“We’ll reward a winning team, we’ll go in unchanged,” Hinkley said.

“Last week we had a significant result from stoppages with the boys we had out there – we’d expect that hopefully they can give us the same result this week.”

John Butcher, Paul Stewart and Sam Gray are the emergencies for the clash the Power must find a way to win to keep their slim finals hopes alive.

Ladder leaders Hawthorn were bolstered by the return of star forward Cyril Rioli for the Adelaide Oval clash.

The Hawks are coming off their bye but welcome back Rioli after he missed their round-14 win over Gold Coast to attend the funeral of his grandfather in the Northern Territory.

He replaces Daniel Howe who was dropped and is an emergency along with Brendan Whitecross and Angus Litherland.

Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson yesterday lit the fuse for a spiteful matchup, declaring their rivals unable to turn their physical style into a winning one.

In incendiary comments likely to ensure a full-blooded Adelaide Oval clash, Clarkson said he embraced the challenge of a fired-up Port Adelaide, daring the Power to bring a physical approach to the game.

Port has beaten Hawthorn in their past three regular season meetings, but the 2014 preliminary final cliffhanger went the Hawks’ way – a match Clarkson suggested was still living in the Power’s memory.

“They’re probably smarting a little bit from the preliminary final loss two years ago,” Clarkson told reporters.

“That’s probably fuelled a lot of motivation … the last couple of times we have played them.

“They’ve ambushed us a little bit with their physicality and their starts to games. But it’s very, very hard to do that on a sustainable basis.

“We like to think we’ve proved ourselves over a long period of time playing tough hard footy (and) Port Adelaide are yet to prove they can do that on a week-to-week basis.

“Those comments will fuel a little bit of spite but you say ‘righto, it’s game on’ and it is game on. We’re ready to come and play.”

Asked about Clarkson’s comments, Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley was typically blunt.

“He’s right,” Hinkley said.

“There’s some evidence to support that we are what we are a little bit, and that’s just a little bit up and down.

“To get credibility you have to do it consistently and at the moment we’re not being able to do that.”

Clarkson said he expected a fierce challenge from Hinkley’s side – but it wouldn’t surprise or rattle him.

“This has been coming at us for three or four years,” he said.

“We’ve been able to cope really well with it … it has held us in great stead when it comes finals time.

“We can endure and we can withstand whatever is thrown at us.

“There’s no greater environment, hostile environment than Adelaide Oval tomorrow night. We’ll embrace it.”

-AAP

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