Naïve and stupid is how I feel after allowing myself to be seduced by Port Adelaide in 2021. Why did I think this year was going to be any different to the disappointment we have come to expect from Port Adelaide for the best part of 20 years?
Finishing the 2021 campaign with the worst home finals defeat in AFL history for a non-Victorian team is incriminating. Just another one for the Port record books to be filed under disaster next to 119.
Last Friday, Melbourne became the 11th different team to qualify for a grand final since Ken Hinkley has been Port Adelaide senior coach.
The historical evidence and trends are conclusive. Not capable to compete consistently with the best teams in the competition over a significant period.
Despite this, Hinkley has maintained a level of internal support that no other coach in the competition would be gifted, and it cannot be neglected any longer.
The Cult of Ken will contend, how do I know if an unproven AFL senior coach could do a better job? The answer is, I don’t know. But using this very logic Hinkley would not have been appointed at Port Adelaide to begin with.
On 5AA radio Monday morning, David Koch disappointingly but not surprisingly all but assured Hinkley was safe for the 2022 season.
“This year was the best win-loss record since 2004. The foundation Kenny has built, the team that he has built is applauded right throughout the industry.”
Sharing the blame
What transpired against the Bulldogs must be a line in the sand moment and catalyst for real change at Alberton.
It is easy to call a poor performance an aberration if you have some recent success to fall back on.
Port Adelaide has zero. Two finals wins, in seven years.
Assistant coach Jarrad Schofield has accepted a coaching role at West Coast so that will be one forced change but the arrival of Shaun Burgoyne to contribute across various roles is a positive acquisition.
Nathan Bassett and Michael Voss have been long-term mainstays and perhaps a change is required in this space.
The underlying concern is the Power has overturned a whole host of assistant coaches and players in the last nine years without success while one constant has remained.
Shuffling a few line coaches and cosmetic change without looking at the root cause is feasibly the best Power fans can hope for as the current board does not appear to have the fortitude to initiate change.
The complete lack of motivation and unprofessional mindset for the preliminary final is an issue that will require deep analysis within Alberton and should include a complete external review.
Blame will justifiably be shared between both coaching staff and players. Quite simply, what in the hell happened in the two-week period between the qualifying and preliminary final?
We kept hearing from all at Port it was the perfect preparation. Most social media content during this time was players laughing and having fun at training or playing golf and enjoying life.
Maybe it was the perfect preparation for annual leave but not in bracing for the most challenging and important game of the season to date.
Skipper Tom Jonas admitted as much in an interview on the Rush Hour on Triple M: “We played like we were still on holidays.”
Changes to the playing squad each year are inevitable. Delisting players like Tyson Goldsack, Joel Garner and Hamish Hartlett who were not involved in the preliminary final was predictable.
Whether players who disgraced themselves in the Bulldogs massacre face consequence will become clear in the trade period and if we see any change to the leadership group.
Some tough conversations and decisions that may not prove popular need to transpire.
Media outlets have reported that Steven Motlop has been offered a new contract, with general manager Chris Davies all but confirming this.
A new deal for the 30-year-old after a six-disposal game against the Dogs is impossible to fathom.
Sydney Swan Jordan Dawson is seeking a trade back to South Australia and he would be a welcome arrival in the off-season and the Power have been strangely linked with Jeremy Finlayson.
Moving the goal posts
In recent years, much of the displeasure from fans has been caused by Port Adelaide setting KPIs with their members and the wider football public which they fail to adhere to.
In 2017, the forecast was the Power would win finals – instead, they lost an elimination final to West Coast.
In 2018 and 2019, the Power did not qualify for the finals. David Koch declared this a failure: “Our pass or fail mark that we set ourselves is making the finals.”
Suddenly in 2020 the club declared the premiership was the target, with the club celebrating its 150th anniversary. (Now is not the time for the Port Power not Port Adelaide debate.)
Ken Hinkley himself at the start of this season echoed the same sentiments: “We plan on 2021 being a winning season for us and that’s a premiership.”
It is easy to lay blame with the fans for expectations but the above are all are failed club objectives.
Earlier this year, CEO Matthew Richardson launched the Chasing Greatness Strategy.
A target of winning three premierships within five years.
Actually making a grand final would be a good place to start.
No AFL club will get two better chances to play in a grand final than Port in the last two years and these golden opportunities have been spurned.
There are plenty of members who still have complete faith in the key stakeholders and direction of the club.
These are the supporters that professional teams love. The true believers who buy memberships with unconditional support, and will always defend the club, and everyone associated even when logic dictates otherwise.
It did take a few days after the preliminary final, but Matthew Richardson sent an email to members, so credit where due even if it did seem a lot like a stage-managed PR piece.
The CEO declared this week, “Winning takes courage. Courage to believe in our plan and our people and what we are doing.”
That is not courage, that is incompetence. The actions in the coming weeks will either see the penny finally drop or the fears of many Port fans will be validated.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. History is not going to judge the most unsuccessful era for Port Adelaide kindly.