PORT ADELAIDE coach Ken Hinkley has described as “remarkable” his side’s come from behind win over the Western Bulldogs on Friday night, lamenting its poor conversion for nearly costing it the game and a top two position.
Hinkley’s men guaranteed they will host a home qualifying final at Adelaide Oval with the win over the Dogs at Marvel Stadium.
Despite booting just one first half goal and trailing for all but the last seven minutes of the match, an inaccurate Port Adelaide got its nose in front late in the game and held on for a 9.12 (66) to 10.4 (64) win.
“It was a remarkable result because we tried everything we could to lose it ourselves with our conversion,” Hinkley said after the game.
“We were pretty dominant really throughout the game but we just couldn’t hit the scoreboard and to the Bulldogs’ credit, they were able to go forward and score.
“It was a remarkable effort really when you consider it took until that late in the game to get there.”
The game was hotly contested early as the Bulldogs burst out of the blocks with the opening four goals of the game and Port squandered chance after chance.
The visiting side slowly got on top in the second term, winning its dominance around the ball as ruckman Scott Lycett took control in the centre and gave his midfielders first use.
For Hinkley the high-pressure contested nature of the game was the ideal warm-up for finals.
“Finals are like that and they’ll be like that all the way through,” he said. “They’re going to be tough and tight, we played in them last year and lost a prelim final by a goal.
“We understand you have to be able to go the whole way and you’ve got to be able to hang in there sometimes and it’s as simple as that tonight - we wouldn’t go away.
“The Bulldogs had lots to play for tonight, as we did, and in the end we were able to come over today, play that game of footy, hang tough and come away with a strong win.”
In the lead-up, Hinkley said his side could ill afford a third slow start in as many weeks having seen the Dogs pile on six goals to one in the first term last time they played each other.
The experienced coach said while the scoreboard made it appear as though his side was slow out of the blocks, the numbers told a different story.
“I thought we had enough opportunities early,” he explained. “The Bulldogs for about six minutes of the first quarter did look like they were more dangerous than us going the other way but.. we missed some easy ones that we should have kicked and were down 16 or 17 points at quarter time but it felt like we were way closer than that.
“On the scoreboard it was a slow start but I don’t think the stats would absolutely say it was a slow start. I thought it was a pretty even start to be fair, other than they kicked goals, we kicked points.”
Hinkley praised his leaders Travis Boak, Ollie Wines, Tom Jonas, Darcy Byrne-Jones, Robbie Gray, and Lycett, saying they had to “do some remarkable things out there” to get the side over the line.
He said Lycett in particular was invaluable with his 40 hit-outs, 22 disposals and five clearances, having missed the last meeting between the sides with suspension.
The result was soured by a hamstring injury which saw young forward Mitch Georgiades subbed out of the game in the third term.
Hinkley said he expected Georgiades to miss at least a fortnight but said Orazio Fantasia should be over his own hamstring niggle and available to return next week plus Sam Powell-Pepper was among other options to replace him.
While it was the first time this season Port had beaten a team in the top four, Hinkley had no doubt his side deserved to be in the top-two and hosting a home final, having fought through adversity throughout the season.
“We think we deserve it. We’ve worked damn hard to get here and there have been a lot of things (go wrong) and times where we weren’t quite good enough,” he said.
“I said it all the way through, wait until the end of the season at Round 23 and see where we finish.
“We’ll be as good as any team in the competition in September. We’ve got a huge opportunity regardless of where the finals are going to be played. We’d love nothing better than be able to stay at Adelaide Oval the whole way, because that means we’re winning. It’s really important but we’ll have to earn those rights.
“When you get your opportunity, you’ve got to maximise it, you have to be ready to do it.
“Last year we didn’t get it done against Richmond the premiership side. I said it at the start of the year that we’re very ready. It doesn’t mean we’ll get there but we’ll be tough to beat.”
Port will now await the result of Saturday night’s game between Melbourne and Geelong to find out whether it will finish top or second on the ladder.