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Rucci: Hinkley a victim of his own success

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PORT Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley is a victim of his success. Yes, his success.

Success in making Port Adelaide ambitious – and intolerant of failure in a competition that is much tougher and more demanding that the one from which SA’s oldest football club rose.

When Hinkley arrived at Alberton in October 2012 – after much coaxing while others preferred to ignore the opportunity to coach the Power – the Port Adelaide Football Club was on its knees.

On the field, it was a mere shadow of all Port Adelaide had come to stand for as an SANFL powerhouse. The Power had just three wins in 2011 when it avoided (by percentage) the club’s first wooden spoon since 1900.

On the terraces, there were tarps and few “true believers” – 14,583, 13,683 and 13,953 at the last three home games at Football Park and no crowd of more than 20,000 in the second half of the season.

On the AFL agenda, there was great uncertainty of a “Port Adelaide Football Club” existing when the new league television deal was signed for 2017 and beyond.

In his first season, Hinkley delivered 13 wins – more than the Power had in 2011-12 combined (eight). He had Port Adelaide qualify for its first AFL finals series in six years. And he ensured there was a revival on the terraces to create critical membership-sales momentum for the return to Adelaide Oval.

In six seasons, Hinkley has delivered 10 or more wins each year. He has refloated a football team that had carried the label of “basket case”. He has given the Port Adelaide fans reason to be proud again – and ambitious.

And now the demand on Hinkley – as noted with that much-noted speech to the faithful by club president David Koch after the elimination final loss to West Coast 11 months ago – is to finish the job with finals appearances … and an AFL flag.

Hinkley has transformed a beaten club that was on its knees in 2012 to a club that once again hates to lose. Just competing is not enough. It is the “Port Adelaide way”.

There also is the Hinkley way – that infamous “never give up” theme that became the successful mantra of Port Adelaide’s 2013 revival.

And this is where Hinkley was so reassuring in his first public moment after the mess of another loss to West Coast after the siren at Adelaide Oval on Saturday evening.

On arriving at Alberton, Hinkley rebuilt hope. And with that hope tested amid a heavy injury tool and the prospect of falling out of the top eight, Hinkley has created a rally cry for his club … or at least his players.

“(Losing to West Coast will) hurt but won’t kill us; it hurts us but it won’t kill us and we’ll keep coming,” Hinkley said. “Let’s have a crack at this and not dwell at what’s gone against us. Let’s look at the opportunities in front of us.”

In 2012, Port Adelaide fans would have given anything to still be in the finals race in mid-August. Hinkley has made them more ambitious again.

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