Welcome to the top four. We are in the endgame now.
Shell-shocked Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley says it’s impossible to adequately describe the pain of his AFL club’s preliminary final flop.
The Power were trounced by 71 points by the Western Bulldogs on Saturday night in a performance Hinkley described as a “disaster”.
“It’s clearly just total disappointment,” he said.
“This game, you’re into it, you give everything you have got – coaches, staff, everyone, it’s the whole footy club.
“We all work so damn hard to get where we want to go and it gets ripped away from you, it gets ripped out of your hands.
“And there’s nothing more you can say other than you are totally disappointed…it’s real and it hurts.”
The Power have now lost consecutive home preliminary finals, with the defeat to the Dogs following last season’s six-point loss to Richmond.
And Hinkley conceded the successive failures could lead to a sudden drop-off in future seasons.
“They can,” he said.
“Everyone starts at this footy club believing that we’re capable of winning the premiership in 2021.
“And when you get to this stage and you fall short by one step and don’t make it to that final game, it does hurt.
“It hurt last year…it hurts every year when you get to this stage.
“You have got to just continue to work at it and you have got to continue to improve. It becomes an easy drop off for you if you’re not willing to work.”
Port were 37 points down at quarter-time and a whopping 58 points behind at halftime.
“Shocked that we played poorly? Yeah, probably,” Hinkley said.
“But it’s more around the hurt and the disappointment…you just rip everything out of your insides and it hurts for too long.
“We made it to the last four teams in the competition. It’s a bloody good effort to get to that position.
“But when you fall short, nothing feels good right now.”
But the Power coach was confident the character of his players would survive such testing times.
“The proof is in their ability to come back this year after last year,” he said.
“They’re a youngish team, they have got a couple of top-end mature players, but overall they’re quite a young, still developing team.
“They have got a lot to work on, not just because of a prelim final result – they have got a lot to work on in their development as players.
“And we have got lots to work on as a coaching staff to develop these players and our game style to a level that can be successful when we need it to be.”