Is Ken Hinkley the man capable of taking Port Adelaide from pretender to contender?
It would be fair to say everything that could go wrong for Port Adelaide against Adelaide did in last Sunday’s Showdown.The most damning aspect from the 84 point thrashing is the margin did not do Adelaide justice.
The Crows deserved to win by 20 goals. Plus in conditions that should have been conducive to a tightly contested game of football.
The result is an indictment on the Port Adelaide Football Club who should be embarrassed, ashamed and have rightly been ridiculed for such a poor display.
It can be easy to overreact after a poor performance in isolation but based on the last three years of performance against quality opposition, there are definitely question marks on whether Port Adelaide is trending in the right direction.
Has Ken done enough to warrant a contract extension?
It was only last month that former Port champion, and now media personality, Kane Cornes called on his former club to give his former coach a contract extension. This was on the basis the Power had turned things around on-field after two poor seasons.
If Port Adelaide does qualify for finals and is knocked out first week of the finals, is 2017 a successful season deserving of a contract extension? No.
With Hinkley already contracted until the end of 2018 the suggestion from Cornes certainly divided opinion.
Most pundits acknowledge Ken Hinkley did a wonderful job when he arrived at Alberton with finals appearances in his first two seasons in charge. This culminated in a Preliminary Final in 2014 with the Power narrowly missing out on a Grand Final birth.
While Hinkley still boasts an overall winning percentage of 55.4%, the jury is out on whether the current game plan and questionable team selection is one capable of success.
A dream run in 2017
The Power has had a favourable fixture this season. Which they have taken full advantage of by winning the games they were expected to win against lowly opposition. This has certainly given the percentage a nice boost along the way.
Performance against top eight opposition is a different story. Let’s not beat around the bush. If Port Adelaide plays finals football, they will not have the luxury of playing North Melbourne, Brisbane or Carlton.
Many clubs have had to contend with a lengthy injury list in 2017. But Ken Hinkley had a full list available most of the year. While this has an element of luck, it is also a tick to the fitness and conditioning staff for the most part.
But if Port Adelaide cannot compete with the top teams of the competition with all resources available, then it is concerning to think how they would fare if they were to lose a Paddy Ryder or Robbie Gray for an extended period of time.
The cross-town rivals
The current situation at Alberton does appear to have some parallels to the Adelaide Crows in 2014. Brenton Sanderson like Hinkley was a previous assistant coach at Geelong. He took the Crows to a Preliminary final in 2012, his first year at Adelaide.
At the end of 2014 after missing out on finals football for consecutive seasons the Crows hierarchy decided Sanderson was not the man to take the club forward. And despite being under contract he was sacked.
Sanderson boasted a similar win/loss record to Hinkley at 56.5% from 69 games coached.
Port Adelaide fans may not be interested in what the Crows do. But the Crows are the club that is currently sitting top of the ladder. They’re also going to finish above Port Adelaide for a third consecutive season. And they have won five consecutive Showdowns.
Port Adelaide management could do worse than have a look at some of the tough decisions their cross-town rivals have made in recent years.
A defining month ahead for Ken Hinkley
Performance cannot be placed solely on the coaching staff. The players rightfully have to take their fair share of the blame when performance is below expectation.
But the reality is the coach generally cops the blame for sub par performance because it’s easier to move on a coach than a host of players.
The optimists will argue Port Adelaide is still 5th on the ladder and in good shape. But the more astute person acknowledges this is a team playing a poor brand of football in the last month that consistently fails when truly tested.
For the sake of Ken Hinkley I hope to be proven wrong. It is difficult to not respect Ken Hinkley who always talks so passionately and is genuinely a very likeable person. But this should not cloud what may very well be a difficult decision that needs to take place sooner rather than later.
President David Koch has made it clear he would like Ken Hinkley to be the long-term coach. And a finals appearance will probably be enough to convince many supporters the club is on the right track. But it is time for the bar to be raised.
The old Port Adelaide existed to win Premierships. Finals twice in nine years, it seems the current Port Adelaide operates under a different Creed.