Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley has left the door open for any players who want to “bang it down” and get in his best 22 for the club’s premiership assault.
Hinkley made three changes for Saturday’s clash with Essendon, recalling banned big man Peter Ladhams after his biosecurity breach.
Veteran Brad Ebert returns along with and Riley Bonner, replacing Zak Butters (suspended), Ryan Burton (quad) and Cam Sutcliffe.
Hinkley hasn’t shied away from making consistent changes in recent weeks to his ladder-leading outfit, which he said had done an “amazing job” to rack up a 12-3 win-loss record so far.
He conceded he was still “exploring” to find his best line-up, one he hopes will take him to premiership glory, and everyone on the list would be considered.
“We have a great handle on our group, but I’m still exploring, still looking. One of our great strengths has been our want to be a part of it. Everyone still feels like they can be a significant part of it,” Hinkley said on Friday.
“I’m going to leave the door wide open for anyone who wants to crash it down. If you can do that you’re going to get a chance. Everyone is going to have to earn their spot.”
Hinkley said he couldn’t fault the effort of Ladhams, who was suspended for three weeks after hosting a party at his house with teammate Dan Houston.
He said the big man’s effort to win back the trust of his teammates showed the qualities he wanted from all his players,
“How do you go about it? You do the job you are supposed to do, and you be reliable. Pete has done that, as has anyone else who has made mistakes,” Hinkley said.
“We’ve got no secret recipes of how they win back their trust. They know they let their teammates down, and their best opportunity to get their teammates’ trust totally back is by game-day performance. “
Critics haven’t been afraid to question Port’s real premiership credentials despite boasting the equal best record in the AFL.
Hinkley said outcomes drove opinions, and he was only focused on one outcome this week, beating Essendon.
“I don’t live in best and worst performances, I live in AFL football, and it’s brutal and hard to win all the time, and we’ve done an amazing job to be 12-3,” he said.
“Outcomes are there for everyone to see and you have to perform your best to perhaps change opinions.
“We’re pretty confident our best can be as good as anyone, in fact I know it is, we’ve done it all year. We’ve got confidence in our season performance, not just a week or two, and we look forward to playing our best game for the year, hopefully, against Essendon.”