PORT ADELAIDE rookie Tobin Cox got his first taste of senior AFL football over the weekend, playing in the Power’s 21-point win over Brisbane in Moreton Bay.
With Robbie Gray unable to make the trip to Queensland, Ken Hinkley turned to Cox to fill the void at half forward.
And while the 20-year-old joked Hinkley should have bunked with him to help settle the nerves the night before, he was happy to receive some reward for effort.
“It was pretty fun,” Cox told reporters at a press conference at Port Adelaide’s photo day at Alberton Oval.
“A good first experience. It was good that we got the win as well.”
The Padthaway product admitted it took some time to adjust to the increased pace of AFL football, but was confident the experience would benefit his football moving forward.
“It was pretty quick,” he said.
“I got a few touches and got tackled a few times that I didn’t think I would.
“The step up will benefit me.
“It gives me a good chance to play at a higher level when I do play SANFL footy.”
Cox enjoyed a strong SANFL campaign in his first year on Port Adelaide’s list, slotting 30 goals in 15 appearances to finish second in the Magpies goal kicking.
This came despite suffering a serious kidney injury that left him hospitalised for three days and cost him five weeks of football midway through the season.
Cox also conceded he “wasn’t the fittest guy” during his rookie campaign, but a dedicated second pre-season has helped him shave “30-40 seconds” off his running times.
“They (Port Adelaide’s coaches) said I’m not going to be a key forward so I need to get a bit fitter and play more half forward and that’s what I’ve tried to do,” he explained.
“We really noticed it (improvement) with my higher speed, shorter burst running and that’s where I can benefit more it as a half forward.
“This year I’ll play a bit higher and in the SANFL I might even get a few minutes in the mids.”
Replacing someone of Robbie Gray’s ilk on the field was always going to draw comparisons between the two, but Cox says he is not getting carried away and is concentrating on improving himself.
“I think every half forward that has a bit of talent gets compared to Robbie Gray,” he said.
“I’m just trying to do my thing, but it is always good to get compared to someone as good as Rob.
“He’s still got a fair few years I reckon and it’s always good to learn from him.”
As one of Gray’s mentees at the club – alongside draftee Dylan Williams – Cox says he is enjoying spending time picking the three-time John Cahill Medallist’s brain to help improve his forward craft.
“We just did some edits with him (Gray), just watching the game,” Cox said.
“You get his insights and you learn so much about how to play, how to crumb.
“Every time we have some game vison or some edits to watch, we go with him and he tells us little positioning stuff and all that.”
Cox’s next chance to impress on the field will come during Saturday’s Under-23s trial game against Adelaide.
The small forward says it is a great chance for the club’s talented youngsters to learn from any senior players that may play and show what they’re capable of.
“In the Under-23s game we’ve got the future of our club playing,” he said.
“Being able to play with a couple of them (senior players) we learn and we get to show what we’ve got.
“It’s always going to be competitive with our new guys coming in there, they’re pretty talented.”
Port Adelaide’s Under-23s take on the Crows at Thebarton Oval from 12pm this Saturday.