‘Make decisions now, apologise later’: Ken Hinkley and Port Adelaide are heading for disaster


Port Adelaide’s unsustainable style mixed with Ken Hinkley’s unacceptable approach will lead to disastrous results.

Here’s the truth of the situation – the Power isn’t playing the sort of footy that lasts for an entire season, demanding so much from its midfield group.

How about a bit of a reality check? Hinkley shouldn’t get any credit, nor does he deserve a pat on the back for admitting it was wrong to play the underdone, injured Connor Rozee, as some in the media have seemingly suggested.

Really, this sort of negligence makes you think about the concussion ridiculousness of last season with the Aliir Aliir/Lachie Jones incident.

Think back a few years and there was always a bit of murkiness surrounding Zak Butters’ lower leg injuries.

This sort of “make decisions now, apologise later” approach really is concerning and it feels like that’s the way the Power’s footy is being played on-field.

They’re not playing the sort of footy that brings a team any sort of success.

In that way, they can be put in the same category as the previously written-about Lions, who at least have better personnel to make changes.

Teams that are so heavily reliant on their star players and one part of the ground are generally seen as a lower echelon to those who compete for September spots – and that’s how this Port Adelaide team seems to be playing.

The “quantity, not quality” approach is now being openly discussed by players. Just listen to a couple of interviews from during the week and there’s almost this voluntary tactical divulgence, indicating they want to get the ball forward as deep as possible and lock it in by squeezing the ground.

It checks out. The Power is ranked second in the league in inside 50s, as well as the same ranking for tackles inside 50 and scoring shots.

On paper, it’s actually quite commendable and seems to be somewhat successful.

That squeezing technique should hypothetically make it harder for their opponents to transition and the numbers say that Port Adelaide has conceded the second-fewest inside 50s in the league too.

That’s a perfect mix if we’re analysing the game with pen and paper.

Connor Rozee celebrates a goal. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Just as a quirky aside, the one team that the Power’s behind for inside 50s both offensively and defensively? That’s right, the aforementioned Brisbane Lions.

While this may be familiar to some social media followers or regular readers, it’s worth breaking down issues once more.

Defensively, the conceding of the second-fewest inside 50s isn’t being done in a sustainable manner and it being labelled a success is such a misnomer. It relies so heavily on the midfield covering for the defence.

Yes, that same midfield group that is expected to be doing all the clearance work and getting the ball forward.

Yes, the same midfield group that’s expected to be present inside 50 and attacking the opposition.

Yes, the same midfield group that hits the scoreboard regularly through its positioning.

That same midfield group is having to work back as well, both through tackling pressure on the defensive side of the square and through its running patterns.

Miles Bergman has had an underrated season on the wing and thank goodness he has the fitness base he does because there’d only be one or two other players in the league that could carry the workload as well as he does.

This is all done because defensively, Hinkley’s team isn’t good enough.

The idea is to minimise the inside 50s the opposition has, or at least slow down the ball movement enough to get numbers flooded back if possible, because they aren’t good enough in one-on-one situations.

That’s been Port Adelaide’s issue for a while and this season, it’s been turned up to the nth degree because they recruited for position holes, not for the roles they needed.

Did Port Adelaide make the wrong decision to re-sign Ken Hinkley?@SENBreakfast | #AFL pic.twitter.com/Q21XZKBqvf

— SEN 1116 (@1116sen) May 3, 2024

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the way Esava Ratugolea and Brandon Zerk-Thatcher have played alongside Aliir Aliir, other than to say there’s a clash in the way they want to play – and really, they’re not quite there when it comes to accountability.

Port concedes a score 44.3 per cent of the time the ball enters their defensive 50, around the same level as Richmond and Hawthorn and a higher rate than any Power season since 2016.

Hinkley wants to try and defend through intercepting rather than rely on accountability, which is forced through the pressure of everyone up the ground.

Dan Houston and Lachie Jones, as well as the key defensive triumvirate, are all averaging pretty decent intercepting numbers, as well as the hard-working wingmen in Bergman and Jase Burgoyne, because of the demands of the midfield.

It’s why Willem Drew is such a good player and is spoken of as one of the league’s most underrated. His improved ability to cover the ground mixed with his incredible tackling efficiency has been paramount to this style somewhat holding up through the first two months of the season.

They’ve been getting a fair bit out of Ollie Wines, there’s nothing wrong with the attack of Butters and Rozee, while Bergman and Burgoyne have also been lumped into two of the better-tackling wingmen in the league.

The work rate of Darcy Byrne-Jones too, a bit like Alex Neal-Bullen of the Demons, has been important in defending the space.

That’s probably the swap at the moment with Jason Horne-Francis, who is playing pure offensive-minded, scintillating footy. Once he gets dragged into this two-way expectation, he’ll be gassed.

So in the space of the first eight games of the season, it’s worked okay, but only because they have five wins.

They beat Essendon and Fremantle, lost to the only actual contenders they’ve played in Melbourne and Collingwood and the rest, it’s all just a bit unconvincing.

“Is Connor Rozee not performing as well as we think or are Port Adelaide not maximising this asset?”

Champion Data’s Daniel Hoyne reveals Connor Rozee is currently the 129th ranked player in the competition. @SENSportsday | #AFL pic.twitter.com/jjpvdLYYNw

— SEN 1116 (@1116sen) May 8, 2024

When the pressure isn’t switched on, imagine how easy it is for the opposition to kick over the top of a tired, pressing team.

Watching the final three-quarters of the Collingwood game, it became painstakingly obvious that the long-held concerns are, in fact, real.

Even when you look at the offensive function of the group, sure, they’re scoring at a high rate, but this notion that quantity over quality will work for a team that lacks the consistent forward pressure from its actual forwards.

Port Adelaide ranks highly for marks inside 50, yet when watching, has a level of inconsistency in the actual marking ability of its key players that’s not something you want your players advertising as quality football in the media.

If we’re being honest, there should be less false bravado in taking accountability off the field for silly team selection with injured players and more emphasis on improving defensive accountability in the backline. That’s what the good teams have, anyway.

After tonight’s Geelong game, it should be an easier fortnight with North and the Hawks, before the real challenge comes.

Sure, injuries have started to come into play, but they’re mostly short-term and if the Power want to prove anyone doubting them wrong, they don’t affect the next fortnight.

On the current level of output though, they’re not playing finals.

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If they snuck into the top eight as things stand, they’d get smashed by 10 goals by an accomplished side, simply because their star midfield will be exhausted by September.

Nathan Buckley insinuated on Monday night’s On the Couch that sometimes, when the coach has been around for a long time, the message mightn’t convey as well as it once did.

Hinkley’s been under pressure for a long time, particularly from his own fan base, and has tried to change as the competition itself has.

Right now, his approach isn’t working – and Port Adelaide’s current unsustainable style won’t see anything change anytime soon.

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