PORT ADELAIDE coach Ken Hinkley has described the hurt of losing a Preliminary Final for a second straight year, offering no excuses for his side’s disappointing showing in Saturday night’s loss to the Western Bulldogs.
Hinkley’s men were beaten up around the contest as the Bulldogs got on an early run, booting seven goals to one in the first quarter to stamp their authority on the game.
The 71-point final margin was the highest in a final for the Dogs and came despite Port having a week off and home ground advantage.
In the immediate aftermath of the game, Hinkley said there were a lot of emotions and it was probably not the right time to assess exactly what went wrong.
“You know if you don’t play at your level, that result can happen at this level of football,” the coach explained.
“I’m sure people realise how much it means but when you’re actually working in it day-to-day and you’re training and playing and giving everything you’ve got, you just rip everything out of your insides and it hurts for too long.
“That’s why tonight’s not the right night to be reflecting on the result too much.”
Asked about his initial feelings post-game, Hinkley was forthright about the hurt experienced within the playing group and across the club.
“It’s total disappointment,” he said. “You put everything into it and you give it all that you’ve got. Players, coaches, staff, it’s a whole of footy club thing where you work so damn hard to get to where we want to go and it gets ripped away from you, it gets ripped out of your hands.
“There’s nothing more you can say other than you’re totally disappointed. It’s real and it hurts.
“We set up to win. We don’t set up to fall short. The closer you get, the harder and more disappointing that loss is.
“But you’ve got to get here. You’ve got to wish that you get back here next year and you’ve got to take the chance that the hurt will be bad again if you get to the position and lose.
“We’ll keep turning up to give ourselves the next opportunity.”
Port is renowned for winning games when it wins the key statistics of contested possession and clearance, and it lost both poorly (clearances 36-26 and contested possessions 136-106) on a miserable night at Adelaide Oval.
Riley Bonner put in a strong showing off half back and Ollie Wines and Travis Boak worked hard in the midfield but there were few winners for Port across the ground.
Hinkley said there were no excuses for the poor showing.
“We had what we needed. We had the build up that we wanted and we came out and got blown off the park very early by the Bulldogs,” he explained.
“They put us under enormous pressure around the ball. They put it forward, they turned it into goals and then we had to chase everything because it was a Prelim Final. There’s no tomorrow in that position and that probably turned the game into as big a disaster as it was by the end of it because we weren’t sitting there accepting wanting to get beaten.
“They’ve done that in the three games that we’ve played them and they’ve been able to get starts on us, twice here and once in Melbourne.
“We looked at every part of that leading in, we had great preparation time to have it right. We failed when we needed not to fail.
“It probably needs a bit of time to digest and think clearly through it but we have no excuses. We have no reasons that were outside of our control.
“We had what we needed and we just didn’t perform.”
Despite the premature end to Port Adelaide’s premiership chase for 2021, Hinkley had full faith that the club and moreso the playing group had the resolve to come back stronger next year.
He said he had already challenged the group to improve.
“You’ve got to continue to work at it and you’ve got to continue to improve. All of our players… need to continue to work to get better and know that every year if you’re not prepared to work hard to get back for the opportunity it becomes an easy drop off for you if you’re not willing to work,” he said.
“The proof is in their ability to come back this year after last year. They’re a youngish team with a couple of top end mature players but overall, they’re a young still developing team.
“They’ve got a lot to work on – not just because of a prelim final result. They’ve got a lot to work on in their development as players and we’ve got a lot to work on as coaching staff to develop these players and our game style to get it to a level to be successful when we need it to be.”