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Hinkley optimistic about Port's future despite heartbreaking loss

Football

Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley is about to spend some agonising time picking up the pieces after last night’s narrow preliminary final loss to Richmond at Adelaide Oval.

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But he’s certain they all fit into the AFL premiership puzzle.

“I am optimistic about our football club … it’s going to be a very good football club,” Hinkley said after Port’s six-point preliminary final loss to Richmond.

“It hurts … but there’s some optimism in us.

“We have got a lot of the pieces we need. There’s so much growth.

“I said last year at one stage that if you can’t see the positivity in Port, you’re not looking.

“You have got to be able to see it and know that we have got it.”

But Port’s future won’t include stalwart Brad Ebert, whose 260-game career ended with another concussion.

Ebert was knocked outperforming a typically courageous spoil – the latest in a string of concussions for the loyal servant.

“That’s him done as an AFL player,” Hinkley said of the 30-year-old.

“He has got to put himself, his health, and his family first.

“He gives everything to our footy club. He will walk away from the club knowing he did everything he possibly could … the courage of that man is amazing.

“He has been pretty certain that this was probably going to be the end because he wasn’t prepared to risk any further injury to his head, it’s too important.

“So Brad will definitely retire.”

Ebert’s departure leaves a hole but Hinkley believes his squad have the talent to again challenge deep into the finals next year.

“Someone is going to go past Richmond at some point. We’re going to be trying bloody hard to be that team that goes past them,” he said.

“We learnt a lot this year. We said we were improving and we were coming.

“We didn’t get to quite where we wanted to go but we gave it one hell of a shot.

“There’s no doubt we have climbed a mountain (but) we didn’t quite get to the top.”

The reigning premiers Richmond knocked out Port Adelaide by six points in a slugfest of a final to advance to a third AFL grand final in four seasons.

The Tigers, with trump card Dustin Martin kicking two goals, prevailed 6.10 (46) to 6.4 (40) in a rain-soaked clash.

Richmond will shoot for a third premiership in four seasons against the winner of Brisbane’s Saturday night bout against Geelong.

“It’s a significant achievement, just making it to the grand final,” Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the playing group – what Port threw at us tonight was incredible.

“You sit there and look at that game of footy and it was just brutal the whole way through, guys throwing their bodies on the line.”

Martin’s influence loomed large with a team-high 21 disposals featuring four clearances while teammate Kane Lambert emerged as an unlikely hero with two last-quarter goals.

Lambert’s strikes tipped the balance in a see-saw scrap – the margin was never greater than 11 points.

Dion Prestia (19 touches), Bachar Houli (15 disposals) and Trent Cotchin (17 possessions) were also prominent for Richmond.

PRELIMINARY FINAL SNAPSHOT

Result: Richmond 6.10 (46) bt Port Adelaide 6.4 (40) at Adelaide Oval

Key moment: Hamish Hartlett knocks the ball over the boundary line, deep in Richmond’s forward line during the 12th minute of the final quarter, and is penalised. Kane Lambert takes the resultant free kick and slots his second goal of the term, building a 10-point lead that the Tigers defended in a frenetic finish.

Key stat: Dustin Martin booted two goals and had 20-plus disposals. The superstar has now achieved this in three preliminary finals – a first in VFL/AFL history.

Injuries: Port’s Ryan Burton spent much of the second and third quarters off the field being treated, while groggy teammate Brad Ebert was helped off the field after a courageous spoil in the final term. Richmond appeared to escape the game without a major injury.

What’s next? Richmond will compete for their third premiership in four seasons. The Tigers will face either Brisbane or Geelong as they hunt back-to-back flags for the first time since 1974.

– AAP

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