After years of neglect, coach Ken Hinkley says Port Adelaide are relevant again after downing reigning premiers Sydney in the upset of the AFL season.
But Hinkley says the resurgent Power remain “miles away” from their ultimate ambition despite Saturday’s stunning 18-point victory against the Swans.
Port, inspired by emerging star Chad Wingard, kicked five goals to two in the last quarter for a stirring 10.12 (72) to 8.6 (54) comeback triumph at a sodden AAMI Stadium.
Wingard booted two goals in the last term and three for the match in a win which lifted the Power into the top eight.
Port ruined the AFL comeback of Sydney’s prized recruit Kurt Tippett, who potted two goals, including one in the first minute of his debut for the Swans.
Sydney also lost Adam Goodes to a right knee injury which forced the megastar to be substituted at three quarter-time.
The Power haven’t played finals since 2007 and, in the past three years, have received millions of dollars in AFL hand-outs to stay afloat.
But Hinkley, in his first year as head coach, has steered Port to seven wins from 12 games and given the club what it craves: respect.
“We are becoming a little bit more relevant, there is no doubt about that,” Hinkley said.
But the rookie coach said Port remained far from producing the consistent excellence of clubs like Sydney.
“We are miles away from there … (but) we have taken some ground,” he said.
“We have beaten a genuine top-four side today … it’s a great confidence builder. We know how to do it, now we have got to be able to do it week-in, week-out.”
In wet and windy conditions, Port slipped behind early as Tippett took centre stage on return from an 11-match ban for his illegal 2009 contract with his former club Adelaide.
Tippett took a mark just 11 seconds into his debut for Sydney and converted a 45 metre set shot, then added another as the Swans crafted a 4.1 to 1.2 advantage at quarter-time.
The boom recruit finished with 2.2 and only six disposals, but impressed his new coach John Longmire.
“For a bloke who has missed 12 weeks of footy, I thought he was pretty good,” Longmire said.
But after Tippett’s early influence, Port, with two quarters of waterlogged work, battled back to trail by four points at three quarter-time.
Wingard’s heroics then punctuated a tense finale in which the lead changed five times before Port sealed the win.