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Port will make finals this season: Hinkley

Football

Ken Hinkley is certain he’ll continue as Port Adelaide coach beyond this AFL season.

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Why? Because he’s adamant Port will make the finals, triggering a clause in his contract to continue.

“There’s an option in my contract that suggests if we play finals I will have further time at Port Adelaide,” Hinkley told AAP.

“And that’s exactly what I think will happen: I will have further time at Port Adelaide.

“For all the people that are interested in the clause, they need not worry because we will play finals.”

Hinkley knows he’ll get pilloried by some for such bullish statements about his club which has played just one losing final in the past five seasons.

Port missed the playoffs in the past two years, heaping pressure on Hinkley as he enters an eighth season at the helm of a club celebrating its 150th anniversary of existence.

“We have to believe in what we can do and we do believe in what we can do,” Hinkley said.

“We finished last year 10th – 11 (wins) and 11 (losses), one win out of the top eight.

“And we played three first-year players in 61 games (between them).

“If you’re capable of that finish with inexperience, and then can bring some experience back into your team that you have had missing for a period of time, put them together.

“You still need luck. But we can certainly challenge the whole competition, not just the finals.”

Hinkley blooded young trio Connor Rozee, Xavier Duursma and Zak Butters last season and all had instant impact.

But it’s the return to peak fitness of older hands such as Brad Ebert, Ollie Wines, Charlie Dixon and Steven Motlop which makes Hinkley certain of some success.

Key forward Dixon, battling injury and depression last year, managed just nine games; while Ebert (11 games), Wines (12) and Motlop (14) along with Jack Watts (two) were also curtailed.

“We felt last year, it was incredibly inexperienced and we dealt with that,” Hinkley said.

“But this year we’re hopeful we can rectify that with some maturity and some luck with older players being available.

“We had new (assistant) coaches last year as well … we brought plenty of new stuff into our football club the last preseason.

“This year, we feel like we needed to consolidate on that … in our offence, we think we have managed to make some significant improvement.”

Hinkley’s ruck stocks are sturdy, with ex-West Coast premiership player Scott Lycett and the precocious talent of emerging Peter Ladhams.

His midfield is strong, boasting established performers Travis Boak, Wines, Robbie Gray, Tom Rockliff and Dan Houston.

The defence is solid, marshalled by Tom Jonas, who this season has assumed the sole captaincy after sharing the role with Wines last season.

But it’s converting attacks into scores which has been Hinkley’s constant headache.

“We are number one in the comp for (forward 50m) entries for; nearly number one for least number of entries against,” he said.

“We have a good model that stands up. What we need to do is put the finish on it, put the polish on it.”

Which is why Hinkley has put the onus on his seasoned midfield brigade to also impact the scoreboard.

“You watch the great players – and I’m certain not saying our players are in their models – but you look at (Nat) Fyfe, (Patrick) Dangerfield, (Dustin) Martin, they all have this great ability to go forward.

“There will be an emphasis, I reckon, on just forcing the ball forward a bit.

“Richmond and their premiership model, everyone wants to follow a little bit. But hopefully we’re not following, but ahead of the game.”

-AAP

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