Earlier this month Ken Hinkley signed a contract extension that will see him remain at Alberton until the end of 2023, rewarding the 54-year-old after Port Adelaide jumped from a tenth-place finish in 2019 to a preliminary final appearance last year.
The last time I wrote an in-depth article about Port Adelaide and Ken Hinkley, I was less than complimentary.
The Port coach had a clause in his contract that required the club to play finals football in 2020 to trigger a contract extension. The performance clause on face value is a fairly low KPI after the previous five seasons, but the KPI was met, so the new deal came as no surprise.
Port Adelaide has performed sporadically in recent years. However, the new contract extension sits more favourably than the unwarranted extension Hinkley signed in 2017.
If missing finals four out of the last six years before winning a solitary final was the master plan all along, then kudos, Port Adelaide. You hoodwinked me.
As enjoyable as last season was for Port fans, I do not quite fathom the preliminary final appearance was the result of a wonderful, well-orchestrated plan.
But I am more than happy to concede if the club can demonstrate last year was not a flash in the pan with sustainable performance in 2021 and beyond.
At the end of 2014 many AFL pundits thought success was ahead for the Power after a narrow preliminary final loss to Hawthorn. This did not come to fruition and it took another six years for Port to win a final.
It does feel different this time around. Certain list management decisions should have the Power list well placed in the coming years for whoever is at the helm as senior coach.
Ken Hinkley was one of if not the most under-pressure coach last year, so he certainly deserves credit for the season when he was under intense scrutiny.
Being named the AFL Coaches Association coach of the year was great recognition for the season, but to become a premiership coach Hinkley is going to have to rewrite the history books.
Overall Hinkley boasts a winning percentage of 57.5 per cent, which sits favourably alongside other coaches in the competition.
The concern is Hinkley’s length of tenure as one of the more experienced senior coaches at AFL level despite failing to see a premiership or grand final appearance thus far.
Many coaches have come and gone since Hinkley was appointed Port Adelaide coach in 2012. More than half the competition has won a premiership or played in a grand final during this period and there are six current coaches who are premiership coaches.
Damien Hardwick, a triple premiership coach, won his first flag in his eighth season. The other five managed to lead their respective teams to glory more quickly.
The 2021 season represents Hinkley’s ninth season in charge. A premiership for Nathan Buckley or Hinkley would see either take the mantle as the longest current serving coach to become a first-time premiership coach.
Last year I stressed that it was a massive task for the Power hierarchy to change the current trajectory and to generate trust, belief and unity among the Port faithful.
The 2020 season was a very good response to the naysayers. But it is premiership or bust for Port Adelaide in the next three years to vindicate a decade of faith in Ken Hinkley.