We Exist To Win Premierships?

The mission statement at Port Adelaide for the longest time has been “we exist to win premierships”. A statement confirmed by club CEO Mathew Richardson in his recent email to the members where he stated “finals and a top four finish aren’t the pass mark at Port Adelaide. We are all on the same page with this and know the ultimate measure of success are premierships”. In fact in 2021 when Richardson penned the “Chasing Greatness” strategic vision he went one step further by putting an ambitious timeline on this mission. 3 flags by 2025!

So how does this mission sit with the recent decision to once again extend the contract of senior coach Ken Hinkley, the league record holder for the most seasons coached at a single club without making a grand final (the necessary precursor to winning a premiership)?

In announcing his 2021 strategic vision Richardson stated that “some will suggest we set the bar too high, put too much pressure on the players and coaches. We won’t step back from the ambitions we are chasing or massage our expectations to suit the moment. The easiest thing we could do now is lower the bar. That is the last thing we will do. We are not going to wilt.”

But are their actions matching their words?

On announcing an additional 2 years for coach Ken Hinkley club President David Koch was quoted as saying “I know there is a school of thought that says we should wait to see how we’ve done in finals… The facts of the matter are that on a win/loss basis, Ken is the most successful coach Port Adelaide has had in the AFL era”

So which is it? Are premierships the most important thing at Alberton? Or is the win-loss percentage, a very healthy 59% (albeit boosted by a very high win % against bottom 4 teams) the KPI for the coach and the board?

Surely if our stated mission is to win premierships, then a coach who made 2 grand finals, winning one, (Mark Williams) must be considered the more successful?

Has Ken Hinkley had enough time?

It is hard to argue that Hinkley has not had enough time to achieve the ultimate, or at least the penultimate (a grand final appearance). No coach in the history of the league has ever been given longer. In fact a quick look at the most recent 20 years of AFL premiership coaches and how long it took them to get their first flag tells the story.

Chris Scott – 1 year
Simon Goodwin – 5 years
Damien Hardwick – 8 years
Adam Simpson – 5 years
Luke Beveridge – 2 years
Alistair Clarkson – 4 years
John Longmire – 2 years
Mick Malthouse – 8 years
Mark Thompson – 8 years
John Worsfold – 5 years
Paul Roos – 4 years
Mark Williams – 6 years
Leigh Matthews – 5 years

Has Hinkley had the list go all the way?

Some will argue that Ken has never had the list. However, Richardson states that “Ken has reshaped our playing list several times across the last decade, coaching for now and for the future”. Given this statement it would seem impossible to absolve Hinkley from the blame if the list is not good enough and impossible to shield him from the criticism if it is.

Hinkley himself stated that the list this year is “the best list he has ever had”. Surely that statement alone is reason enough to wait until the end of the finals to decide on the future of a man who is seemingly not in demand at any other AFL clubs, despite the speculation.

Is the club just setting the bar too high?

Former CEO Keith Thomas once stated “I think accountability and expectation is one of Port Adelaide’s greatest assets. We have such an amazing history of success and the expectation to win is clear. We never want to hide from that and we don’t want our supporters to either.”

Contrary to popular (and lazy) claims, Port supporters don’t expect the club to emulate the unparalleled success in the SANFL. What they do expect, is for the club to match its own stated ambitions in the AFL. To match the benchmark clubs in this league like Geelong, Hawthorn, Richmond and Brisbane all of whom have all been able to win 3 or more premierships this millennium and who have all since moved on their coaches in search of future glories.

Whilst I think we can all acknowledge the wonderful job Hinkley did in turning Port around in 2013 and 2014, that is now 9 years ago. And with just 2 finals wins in the following 8 years (when at least 3 finals wins in the one season are needed for a flag) it is hard to keep reconciling the stated mission “we exist to win premierships” with the choice to give Hinkley yet another 2 years.

So does Port Adelaide exist to win premierships?

And if so, was extending the contract of Ken Hinkley before a ball was bounced in the 2023 finals campaign the right move?

Time will tell, and none would be happier than me if the cup returns to Alberton in 2023, 2025 or 2025, but history is not on their side.






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