Port Adelaide champion Kane Cornes has downplayed his beloved club’s premiership chances this season, despite a wildly successful trade period last year.
The Power were lauded as one of the winners of the trade period when they lured 2021 No.1 pick Jason Horne-Francis to the club alongside 2018 premiership-winning goalsneak Junior Rioli, bolstering an already impressive list.
However, Cornes, who played in the club’s only AFL premiership in 2004, believes Port still lacks the quality of some of the league’s elite teams.
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“I don’t know if they’ve got the talent level of some of the other teams that we’re talking about that are in premiership contention,” he told Wide World of Sports.
“They’ve got a really tough first couple of games … so they’d really want to start well, and the pre-season games were a little bit disappointing in that respect.
“They’re (premierships) difficult to win, so I wouldn’t say it’s premiership or bust for anyone, and right now there’s probably nine teams who can win it.
“Are they (Port) in and amongst the best four or five at this point? Probably not. They’re probably somewhere between six and 10, in that range.”
Hovering over the Power’s season is the ongoing speculation surrounding head coach Ken Hinkley‘s future, with the 56-year-old in the final year of his contract.
Hinkley has coached Port to three preliminary finals since joining the club in 2013, but there have been calls from fans for the club to turn the page on his decade-long tenure following a disappointing 2022 season. Some disgruntled fans even posted a sign reading “sack Hinkley” at the club’s headquarters last year.
Cornes admitted he was unsure how Hinkley’s future would play out, but urged the club to treat him with respect.
“What I do hope is that they show him the respect that he deserves. He’s been such a strong leader of the footy club and done a tremendous job,” he said.
“I’m sure (regardless of) whatever happens they’ll be speaking regularly with (Port GM of football) Chris Davies and the board and Ken will know exactly where it sits. I don’t think there’s going to be any surprises this year.
“Whether that’s at the end of the year, halfway through or whether he goes again, it’s a bit hard to predict, but the pressure is there from the supporters to have a good year and sometimes that overwhelms the club and forces them into decisions. Hopefully that doesn’t happen, but we’ll have to wait and see.”
Cornes is no stranger to playing on a team where the coach’s contract was a major talking point, with Port premiership coach Mark Williams’ future a similar talking point in 2009, and explained the impact it has on the playing group.
“You just get asked about it a lot constantly and it’s sort of in your face,” he said.
“But Ken’s pretty good on staying in the moment and doing the little things right. I’m not sure whether they would’ve discussed it as a group, but when the ball is there to be won you’re not thinking about the coach’s contract.
“So during the week it can be a bit distracting, but on game day it shouldn’t have too much of an impact.”
Cornes will pull on the football boots for the first time in almost a decade after entering the 2023 Carlton Draft, where he will represent a local club in a one-off game.
Despite being an avid runner in his post-playing days, the 300-game champion admitted his football skills had gotten a little rusty.
”I actually went and trained with my son’s under-14s team last night to try and get myself in some sort of shape to be able to play and it’s pretty ugly, so I’ve got some work to do,” he said.
“They stitched me up! It’s amazing how quickly you lose the athleticism that’s required. I run a lot but it’s completely different to the dynamic nature of playing footy, but I’m excited.
Entries for the 2023 Carlton Draft across Victoria are now open. To nominate your club head to http://www.thecarltondraft.com.au. Entries close March 27 with six lucky clubs to be announced in early April.
“Grassroots footy is special to a lot of people and it’s where it all starts and it’s where it all started for me, so to get back in and amongst the community, I think it’s a terrific concept.
“I saw the guys do it last year and thought, ‘Oh, I’d love to be involved in this’. I was thankful that they wanted to have me involved.”
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