Hinkley is looking forward to seeing two "great midfields going at each other on Saturday night. Image: AFL Photos.

IN a league full of rankings and ratings, Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley today is prepared to label Melbourne's midfield as the AFL's best.

Led by the league's best ruckman Max Gawn, the talent-laden Melbourne engine is to give Hinkley the best insight into the refit of his Port Adelaide midfield in Saturday night's epic clash at Adelaide Oval.

"Great midfields going at each other," said Hinkley of the billboard battle that could be the most decisive in the match-up of two 2023 finalists seeking to establish their top-four credentials in a new season.

"Melbourne has to be close, I would have thought, to the best group of mids together. Look at their quality ... Petracca, Oliver, Viney (in his 250th), Sparrow, Max Gawn and Pickett goes in there. It is a pretty formidable group we are up against.

"I am looking forward to seeing the growth of our group. Ollie Wines back in good form taking on those challenges himself. Ivan Soldo (leading the ruck against Gawn). Our captain (Connor Rozee) and vice-captain (Zak Butters) are really important to us. We still have Jason Horne-Francis out of our team. 

"We are looking forward to this real challenge. It is a massive challenge."

Spearhead Todd Marshall is set to play his 100th game tomorrow night. Image: Matt Sampson.


A WEEK after acknowledging former captain Travis Boak with his 350th milestone game, Hinkley today found himself comparing Todd Marshall's 100th match carrying similar significance.

"How big was Trav's effort to get to 350 ... and I am not sure you could have many more challenges than Todd has faced," Hinkley said. "To reach 100 games is remarkable. I do reflect on it being very similar to what Travis' milestone was last week.

"It is one story I am really proud of.

"I am incredibly pleased for Todd, but it is just part of his journey. We all had great confidence in what Todd's ability was going to produce at AFL level. He is starting to become the player we all want him to be. And we still expect his next 100 will be even better again. 

"But I am really proud of Todd considering the challenges he has faced. Not many people have had to face the challenges he has (such as losing both parents in a six-month span)."



FOR the third consecutive week, Port Adelaide has kept the bulk of its new line-up together. This week there is a return to the Round 1 team sheet with defensive forward Jed McEntee resuming after overcoming concussion.

Hinkley describes McEntee "as very important to us in the way he plays".

"With Sam Powell-Pepper (suspended) out of the side as well, we understand Jed is a pressure player in our front half," Hinkley said. "Darcy Byrne-Jones soldiered a fair bit of it last week with Francis Evans' support. All our forwards are required to do that sort of stuff, but Jed comes in to add a real edge to our pressure."

"It is certainly helpful; it does not hurt to keep them together," Hinkley said of the stability at selection. "It does mean we have been lucky thus far with injury ... it helps us."


MELBOURNE, with its goalscoring yips seemingly cleared away during the past two games, becomes the first of the 2023 top-eight finalists to duel with Port Adelaide in the new season.

The traditional Victorian club arrives at Adelaide Oval having endured seemingly endless headlines during the summer and past week.

"Melbourne has been spoken about a lot over the summer with some of their challenges, but we all have our challenges," Hinkley said. "This game makes it hard to play against them whenever. They are a formidable team; they have been a top-four team for a long period of time. That is the respect we have for them.

"We, as a team, don't go to that spot of the competition being better or worse from one week to the other," Hinkley added. "We go to the same spot every week. We prepare for the best of every team. And if the best of every team turns up, you must be able to match it or you will not get the result you want."

Hinkley says his side will have its challenges in limiting "probably the best ruck in the competition" in Max Gawn. Image: AFL Photos.


FOR a decade, Melbourne captain and ruckman Max Gawn has presented match-defining challenges to Port Adelaide. He also has drawn some creative tactics from the Port Adelaide coaching staff - and some heavy criticism of the Melbourne players last time for not supporting Gawn.

"We try to lessen the strength of every team - and Max is a great player, probably the best ruckman in the competition," said Hinkley. "We do our best to limit what he can do to the game. 

"But that applies to so many Melbourne players. They have so much talent in that side.

"There is a bit more made of that stuff (with Gawn) than is real. We try to stop Max Gawn as much as we can from influencing a game."


HINKLEY declared he will respect the AFL-AFL Player Association policy on illicit drugs rather than publicly debate its merit.

"I work within that policy," he said. "I don't have a view I am prepared to share either way. I work within the boundaries of that policy."