K rock Football

Coach cutbacks a blow: Kenny

Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley (Sports Media Image/Marcel Berens)

PORT Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley believes the game will be poorer for having fewer coaches in the AFL system when the competition shutdown is over.

AFL clubs are facing drastic reductions in football department spending because of the financial crisis caused by the coronavirus.

Each club’s soft cap expenditure is set to drop from $9.7 million this year to just $6.7 million for 2021.

Many coaches, game analysts and recruiting staff will be made redundant as a result.

Some high-profile figures in the game, including AFL legend Malcolm Blight, have argued that the streamlining of coaching groups will create a more “pure” contest between players and lead to a better product.

But Hinkley disagrees.

“People are saying that the game may be better for it. I don’t think that’s probable, I don’t think that’s possible in my world,” Hinkley told SEN on Monday.

“I think the game is done really well now and I think anytime you go back, you probably take a step back.

“But I’m of the opinion that eventually the game will catch back up to where it is today and go forward and be better than it is.”

Hinkley was one of just “two or three” coaches working under Blight at St Kilda 20 years ago before the rapid expansion of football departments what amounted to the AFL’s version of an arms race between clubs.

Hinkley said the support networks that had now been set up by clubs for their players had improved the game.

“We’re performing and creating jobs to develop young people and get them better prepared to play AFL football,” Hinkley said.

“What we don’t do is just coach them in football. We coach them in a lot of other things.

“They have plenty of welfare people, plenty of psychs around them now … physical people that are around them to condition them properly and doctors and physios to make sure we look after their physical performance and also their mental performance.”

Hinkley has entered the final year of his contract as one the coaches under most pressure to deliver success in 2020, previously admitting it was “finals or bust” for his reign at Port.

The landscape has since shifted significantly with the outbreak of the coronavirus.

“I understand that clearly because it’s on the radar there’s some interest,” Hinkley said.

“But from my point of view I’ve got one obligation, that is to help and steer and create an opportunity for our football club to be successful in 2020, and that won’t change.

“There’s some challenges there now that are in front of me that are a bit different to what they were at the start of 2020, but my job and my responsibility is to give this group and this team and this club a great opportunity in its 150th year.”

Hinkley and the club’s players and staff who travelled to the Gold Coast for their Round 1 match are still in isolation because of government guidelines to prevent the coronavirus spread.

© AAP 2020