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"We blew it": Kochie questions players' ability to follow game plan

Football

Port Adelaide chairman David Koch has defended his post-match attack on the club’s players, but concedes the Power “blew it” in their sudden-death weekend final, lamenting a consistent inability to follow coach Ken Hinkley’s game plan “in big moments”.

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Port’s gut-wrenching finals loss has prompted a bitter aftermath, with Koch publicly questioning Hinkley’s decision to field a young side at the expense of established veterans, while putting the Power’s players on notice to play for premierships – or play somewhere else.

He doubled down on the comments today, conceding “we blew it” against the Eagles “and it’s been a trait we’ve had for a lot of the year”.

“In big moments, the team doesn’t follow Ken’s plan,” he told FIVEaa.

But he has also questioned Hinkley’s own implementation of that plan, noting the “jury was out” on his decision to field a young side, whose backline “looked a little brittle” when West Coast kicked away early.

The Power chairman originally revealed his blunt warning to the players at a supporters’ function after the Power’s heartbreaking extra-time elimination final loss to West Coast at Adelaide Oval.

Koch addressed the players immediately after Saturday night’s game and told them the club remained committed to ensuring they have the support they need to succeed.

“But while we make that commitment they’ve got to make a commitment to us,” Koch said.

“They’ve got to make a commitment to play to instructions, to play with composure.

“And we don’t want players who are living their dream just by playing AFL footy.

“We want players who want to win a premiership.

“If they’re not prepared – if they’re just playing for us because they love to play AFL – they’re not players that we want.

“If they’re not prepared to win a premiership for this club, we basically don’t want them. Let us know and we’ll trade them.

“It’s not a one-off, it’s not a one-out, and they’ve got to make the big moments count.”

Koch told the audience the team was gutted by the outcome of the match that was decided after the siren by a goal to the Eagles’ Luke Shuey.

But he added that coach Ken Hinkley had no sympathy for them and didn’t hold back in his assessment of the performance punctuated by squandered goal-scoring opportunities.

After the match, Hinkley staunchly defended his decision to go with a youthful team at the expense of more-experienced campaigners – most notably veteran defender Jackson Trengove.

But Koch wasn’t as emphatic in his support of the bold selection move.

“We played a young side tonight; jury’s out whether we should have,” he said.

“But let me tell you, they learnt a bloody lot from tonight.

“Hopefully it counts for something because we are really hurting.”

To add insult to injury, Trengove – along with out-of-favour Aaron Young and Matthew Broadbent – yesterday had to sit out Port’s SANFL win over Woodville West Torrens to advance to the state league Grand Final, as the Power’s AFL exit meant they no longer satisfied the selection criteria.

Koch’s broadside sparked a backlash among members, prompting him to call in to radio station FIVEaa today to defend his position.

Asked whether his comments were a pointed direction to the players or frustration over the sudden-death loss, Koch said they were “a bit of both”.

“This was the most devastating loss since we’ve been there, and why? Because we blew it. We blew it,” he said.

“We all know we blew it… the players know we blew it.”

Koch didn’t quibble over the contentious free kick that decided the game, saying “the umpires got it right” – instead lamenting “when you kick 10.16 in an elimination final you’re never going to win”.

“We shouldn’t have been in a position to do that [lose with a kick on the siren],” he said.

“And it’s been a trait we’ve had for a lot of the year… in big moments, the team doesn’t follow Ken’s plan.”

Koch said the result “hurt us all”.

“It hurt the players… if you could have been in the rooms at the end of that game – every single player was devastated [because] it was our own fault,” he said.

Despite that, he said it had been “a year of huge improvement” and he was not questioning the players’ intent.

“But I’m saying to them ‘this is why it’s got to hurt, this is why none of you are going to forget this,” he said.

“I’m completely upfront and say exactly what I’m thinking… why hide from it? Why nit be open about it?”

He said he backed Hinkley as coach and “over the summer we’ll talk to him about extending” his contract, which expires next year.

Hinkley has been linked to the vacant Gold Coast coaching position.

“My job is to try and make Ken Hinkley a 10-year-coach and give him all the resources to be that,” said Koch today.

He was not asked about his team selection queries – and did not directly address the issue today – but conceded the young defence “held up pretty well… apart from that first quarter where our backline looked a bit brittle”.

The club’s CEO Keith Thomas played down Koch’s post-match comments on ABC Radio Adelaide today, but rejected any suggestion the team selection was wrong.

People should be “careful about reading too much into things said immediately after the game”, he warned, noting Koch’s remarks reiterated the club’s mantra that it ‘exists to win premierships’.

-with AAP 

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