PORT ADELAIDE coach Ken Hinkley says he has come away from his side’s final pre-season game with a better idea of the 22 players he’ll pick for Round 1 of the premiership season but will wait until closer to the March 21 game against North Melbourne to settle on it.
Hinkley was pleased with what his side dished up in its 71-point win over Adelaide in the AAMI Community Series game at Noarlunga on Sunday despite inaccuracy in front of goal.
Port won 17.14 (116) to 6.9 (45) after a strong opening half which saw it keep the Crows to one goal.
Hinkley had the luxury of resting Charlie Dixon, Travis Boak, Tom Clurey and Orazio Fantasia after half time and giving opportunities to youngsters Lachie Jones, Miles Bergman, Jackson Mead and Mitch Georgiades.
The Port coach said his squad is well placed to attack the season with plenty of depth.
“We managed the boys with a few coming off at half time and it’s given us a good healthy squad going into round 1,” Hinkley said in his post-match press conference.
“Whether we’ve been physically fitter, I don’t know but we’re well prepared and well drilled in terms of how we like to play.
“That gives us a great chance to start the season off strong.
“We execute at a high level now. That’s knowledge. It’s been a two-to-three-year build and I’ve said it all along, 2019 was a, albeit disappointing with where we finished, part of what we’re putting together, 2020 was a fantastic season, we’d like 2021 to be better.”
Minutes after the game, where Connor Rozee booted two goals and took a spectacular mark, Hinkley confirmed the 21-year-old would have surgery this week to correct an issue with the joint in his right foot.
Hinkley said it was an unusual injury and the club wanted to see how he went over the last couple of weeks after seeing a specialist in Sydney before confirming the best course of action.
A timeframe for his return won’t be known until after the procedure.
“He got through the game well and played pretty well,” Hinkley said of the exciting forward.
“He’s got a somewhat minor issue but an unusual one, which the surgeon and nobody has actually seen the type of injury that he’s got.
“It’s quite a simple thing but he’ll have surgery this week. It seems that it’ll be a simple thing but we won’t know until he’s had it done.
“We’re not going to be fixed on round 1 or round 2, we’re going to be fixed on Connor Rozee for the long-term.”
Pleasing for Hinkley was the immediate impact recruits Aliir Aliir (21 disposals and 14 marks) and Orazio Fantasia (three goals, 11 disposals in half a game) are having, and how well they have settled in at Alberton.
“If you go back to list management and the way we identified the players who play the way we want to and we went after them,” the coach said.
“Aliir is quite an aggressive front foot defender who likes to intercept the ball. We play something similar to that as a team.
“In the front half we’ve got some real speed on the ground. Orazio knows where to go. He’s a smart crafty forward and that’s what you’re looking for in those positions – people with real football intelligence and he’s got plenty of that.”
Hinkley was also impressed with the efforts of his young brigade, including Bergman, Jones, Georgiades and Mead, who booted a goal in his first hit-out with the AFL side.
“They showed they’re ready to play some AFL footy, there’s no doubt about that,” Hinkley said of his first and second year players.
“Miles, Lachy, Mitch Georgiades and Meady – I’m really excited about our youth but we’re equally excited about our squad and that’s really important.
“Our squad is deep. Everyone talks about Round 1 being important but it’s a long long season ahead and you’ve got to make sure we’ve got a good deep squad and we’ve got that at the moment.”
Port Adelaide’s players and coaches will now enjoy a four-day break before returning to training to prepare for a Round 1 encounter with North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on Sunday 21 March.