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AFL News: Hinkley locked in at last, Riewoldt the retiring type, hobbled Hawks star's career in limbo

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15th August, 2023
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Port Adelaide have denied a succession plan has been put in place after ending speculation over Ken Hinkley’s future and re-signing him as coach until the end of 2025.

Out-of-contract at season’s end, Port president David Koch wanted to wait and see how the season panned out before recommitting to Hinkley, who started as coach in 2013.

Koch did admit last week it would be “silly” to let the saga drag into finals and become a “distraction” as the club chases its second AFL premiership.

But with Port set to secure a top-four finish after missing finals last year, Hinkley was on Tuesday confirmed to be staying on for at least another two seasons.

Port assistant coach Josh Carr has knocked back going through the process to find Richmond’s successor for Damien Hardwick, leading to speculation he could one day to replace Hinkley in the top job at the Power.

But Hinkley said there was no end date on when he would finish at Alberton as he closes in overtaking Mark Williams for most games coached at Port in the AFL.

“We’ve said it pretty clearly right all the way through, we’re just grateful that Josh has recommitted and wants to be part of our football club,” Hinkley said.

“Josh is a really impressive young coach who at some stage will coach himself.

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Power coach Ken Hinkley looks on

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

“I’d love nothing more about if it was at Port Adelaide at some stage but there’s no succession plan in place, there’s no end date.

“If you thought Josh was going to want and going to need a succession plan to commit to Port Adelaide football club, they don’t know Josh well enough.”

Under Hinkley, the Power immediately bounced out of a dark period in the bottom-four to make a preliminary final in 2014.

A grand final place has eluded Port during Hinkley’s tenure but the club has remained in contention and not bottomed out.

“I said it a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve said it many times before, I care deeply for this playing group and football club,” Hinkley said.

“Not for one moment do I take coaching this great football club for granted.”

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Port sit in third after snapping a four-game losing streak to smash GWS last Sunday and keep their hopes of a top-two finish alive.

Hinkley’s position was labelled “untenable” by 2004 premiership captain Warren Tredrea after slumping to 1-2 in April when they lost the Showdown, but Port then went on a stunning 13-game winning streak.

“We have great confidence in what this playing group can achieve, this year and into the future, with Ken at the helm,” Koch said in a statement.

“We believe confirming Ken’s contract extension now provides our football program with confidence and certainty heading into an exciting finals campaign. 

“Our win on Sunday locked away a top four finish, providing a strong platform heading into September.”

Riewoldt joins Cotchin in hanging up the boots

Jack Riewoldt will join fellow triple Richmond premiership legend Trent Cotchin in ending his decorated AFL career in the same game, bringing a glorious era to a close for the Tigers.

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Five days after Cotchin announced he was calling it quits, Riewoldt on Tuesday told his Richmond teammates he would be retiring.

Ranked third for most goals in the club’s history with 786 after leading the Tigers’ goal-kicking in 11 of his 17 seasons, Riewoldt will end a career that started in 2007.

Richmond’s final home game for the season is on Saturday against North Melbourne at the MCG, where Riewoldt and Cotchin will be given an emotional send-off in front of the Tigers faithful.

The 34-year-old had been considering playing on next year after kicking 31 goals in an up-and-down season for Richmond.

Jack Riewoldt of the Tigers celebrates

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Just as they were for Cotchin, all Richmond players and staff were in attendance at Punt Rd for Riewoldt’s retirement press conference.

“It’s probably been bubbling away for most of the year myself,” Riewoldt said of his retirement decision.

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“Myself and Trent had a conversation at the start of the year about really enjoying every moment this year.

“It’s probably a little bit of an end of an era. 

“It only seems like yesterday I was sitting on the porch of his (Cotchin’s) parents holiday house in Moama (in regional NSW) having a couple of VBs with his old man and just having the time of our lives at 19 years of age.”

Riewoldt said he found it difficult letting friends and family know, but called Damien Hardwick, who exited the club in May, on Monday night to thank his long-time coach for helping him during his career.

Hardwick is due to return from an European holiday this week and could be in attendance at the MCG on Saturday ahead of being announced as Gold Coast’s new coach.

Riewoldt was expecting to play a support role for Tom Lynch this year, but the towering Tigers forward has not featured since hurting his foot in round four.

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A three-time Coleman medallist, Riewoldt, with 346 appearances, will bow out having played the second-most games at Richmond behind Tigers legend Kevin Bartlett (403).

Riewoldt was a standout in his early years, even when the Tigers struggled, and continued to thrive when Richmond started playing finals consistently.

A noted big-game player, Riewoldt booted nine goals across Richmond’s three grand final victories in 2017, 2019 and 2020.

After the Tigers broke through for their first premiership in 37 years in 2017, Riewoldt famously got on stage with US indie rockers The Killers and belted out the band’s iconic song Mr Brightside while still wearing his jumper from the grand final.

“I’ve got no doubt that we’ll probably get a fair few renditions on social media over the next period of time,” Riewoldt said of his rockstar cameo.

“It’s probably one of the things that will stick with me for the rest of my life.”

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Richmond, who will almost certainly miss finals unless a string of unlikely results fall their way, will meet Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval in round 24 in their first outing post-Riewoldt and Cotchin.

Hawks star’s career hangs in the balance

Hawthorn forward Chad Wingard faces an uncertain AFL playing future as he prepares to undergo surgery on a ruptured achilles tendon.

The 30-year-old, who is out of contract at the end of the season, was left out the Hawks’ senior side mid-year before finding form over the past six weeks.

In a case of unfortunate timing, he was hurt during the opening minutes of Sunday’s win over the Western Bulldogs in Launceston.

Wingard flew back to Melbourne with teammates and will undergo surgery this month once swelling settles.

He is expected to be sidelined for up to a year.

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“It was sad to see him go down but we’ll wrap our arms around him and show as much support as we can to him,” Hawthorn teammate Karl Amon said.

Wingard is not certain to win a new deal with the Hawks, who are in a rebuilding phase under second-year coach Sam Mitchell.

Rival clubs will weigh up the value of recruiting a player who is likely to miss the majority of next season.

Wingard has played 218 games over 12 seasons with Hawthorn and Port Adelaide, and was an All-Australian in 2013 and 2015.

Meanwhile, Wingard’s former Hawks teammate Jack Gunston still has a chance to return this season for the Brisbane Lions despite a knee injury sustained in Saturday’s win over Adelaide.

Scans on Monday confirmed a strained MCL in Gunston’s left knee, which will rule him out of the remaining two home-and-away rounds.

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In a club statement, the Lions said further assessment would determine the best course of action and left the door open for Gunston’s “possible return during the finals”.

Fellow Lions veteran Daniel Rich will miss up to four weeks after re-injuring a hamstring while playing in the VFL over the weekend.

Rich and Gunston were left out of Brisbane’s senior side in unusual circumstances in June, sent into a training block after heart-to-heart discussions with coach Chris Fagan over their form.

Gunston returned with six goals in a thumping of West Coast and kicked 11 majors in five games before injuring his knee.

Chad Wingard

Chad Wingard (Michael Willson/AFL Photos)

Rich has not yet returned to AFL action.

Carlton forward Harry McKay and utility Jack Silvagni have overcome knee injuries to resume full training and are expected to be available to take on Gold Coast on Saturday.

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McKay had surgery to repair a meniscus issue last month and was last week listed as still being three to five weeks away from returning to action.

But the key forward, who has missed the Blues’ past four matches, is now poised to reclaim his position next to Charlie Curnow in attack.

Sam Docherty faces a fitness test this week after he was substituted out with a tight calf in the four-point win over Melbourne.

Sam Walsh, Adam Cerra and Mitch McGovern are all aiming to return from hamstring injuries in round 24.

Saints buoyed by Membrey’s return for finals push

Tim Membrey’s successful return from injury has raised St Kilda’s hopes of locking in an AFL finals berth as the race for top-eight spots goes down to the wire.

Membrey booted 34 majors last year in a fruitful combination with Max King, who led the club’s goal-kicking with 52.

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But injury setbacks for both players meant the Saints’ prime attacking targets had not played together at all this season until last Sunday’s important 36-point win over Richmond.

King booted an equal career-high six goals against the Tigers in his second game back from a shoulder injury, while Membrey pushed further up the ground and finished with 15 disposals.

The 29-year-old Membrey missed the start of the season with a knee injury and made four appearances before being subbed out of the round-nine loss to Adelaide with a similar issue.

The second knee injury kept him sidelined for three months as inexperienced trio Mitch Owens, Anthony Caminiti and Mattaes Phillipou filled the void.

“Timmy works so hard, he’s got a huge tank and you see him flying up and down the wing,” Saints ruckman Rowan Marshall told AAP.

“His leading patterns help Max and all the other forwards, so it’s really pleasing to have Timmy back.

“It’s good to have a bit of experience down there as well.

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Tim Membrey

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

“We’ve had a young forward line all year and they’ve done a great job under a fair bit of duress at times.

“For (King and Membrey) to come back and show real leadership is pleasing.”

The pair will aim to continue rebuilding chemistry in St Kilda’s high-stakes home clash with Geelong on Saturday night before an interstate trip to face the Brisbane Lions in round 24.

After a four-match winning run to open the season, the Saints have battled inconsistency for most of the campaign.

But victory in either of the final two home-and-away rounds would likely seal a finals berth in Ross Lyon’s first year back at the helm.

“If we move the ball well, like we did against Richmond, then we know we’ve just got to bring effort every week,” Marshall said.

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“If we bring effort, then we know that our system stacks up against anyone.”

Naitanui backs Simpson to lead the Eagles out of mire

Retiring West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui is adamant the club can quickly rebound from the depths of despair, and he’s backing coach Adam Simpson to lead them out of it.

Naitanui, who has been sidelined all year with an Achilles tendon injury, announced his immediate retirement on Monday.

He joins fellow club legends Luke Shuey and Shannon Hurn in hanging up the boots.

West Coast won just two games last season, and they are last on the ladder this year with a 2-19 record and a woeful percentage of 50.6.

Barring an unlikely win against the Bulldogs or Adelaide in the final two rounds, West Coast will collect just the second wooden spoon in the club’s proud 37-year history.

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Adam Simpson chats with Jayden Hunt.

Adam Simpson. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The last time it happened was in 2010, with the Eagles remarkably making the preliminary finals a year later.

The rebuild this time around appears set to be a longer and more painful one.

But Naitanui is optimistic things will change quickly, and he’s backing Simpson and the rest of the coaching group to turn it around.

“I never forget, we won a wooden spoon in 2010, I was part of that, and we had some success in 2011,” Naitanui said.

“I think it’s going to turn really quickly, and I feel we’ve got the right group for it, the right coaches, the right administration for it.”

Simpson’s future has been a hot talking point this season.

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Five losses in excess of 100 points, including an embarrassing 171-point defeat to Sydney in round 15, means Simpson remains on shaky ground.

Naitanui wished he was able to play this year to help take the heat off Simpson and the rest of the team.

One big positive about West Coast’s woeful form is the fact they are on track to receive the prized No.1 pick in the national draft.

It means the Eagles can either snare gun Victorian midfielder Harley Reid, or trade the pick away to a rival club for up to three first-round picks in return.

West Coast finished 15th of 16 teams in 2008, and it allowed them to snare Naitanui with pick No.2 in that year’s national draft, as well as Shuey with a priority selection pick (No.18).

“People forget sometimes that clubs go through these lulls. There’s some down times,” Naitanui said.

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“A lot of us players wouldn’t be in the room if it wasn’t for some of those down times.

“Shuey and I came at the end of 2008. We were struggling and we were early picks.

“That’s starting to happen now. You’re seeing guys like Elijah (Hewett), Reuben (Ginbey), and Noah Long come through. 

“They’re that next generation of guys that are going to come and help the players above them get better and improve.”

© AAP

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