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Port Adelaide Power coach Ken Hinkley backs Zak Butters’ decision to open door to free agency offers, open to Josh Carr succeeding him as coach

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Voss failed in his first senior coaching stint when he lacked experience at the Brisbane Lions and did his apprenticeship under Hinkley at Port before landing the Carlton job as senior coach.

Hinkley said it was part of his job to prepare the coaches underneath to give themselves a chance to become senior coaches, having been blessed to have the late Phil Walsh (Adelaide), Matthew Nicks (Adelaide) and Voss go from Port to become senior coaches.

“That’s hopefully what happens to the people who I work with, I help them create their own opportunities and if that happens for Josh, for Chad, for Tyson Goldsack who’s just stepped up in his first year as a line coach, I’d love nothing more than for them to get their chance.”

Carr did not pursue Richmond’s senior coaching vacancy last year, but Hinkley pointed out that Carr had four kids, a wife from Adelaide and had just brought his family back from Perth.

“I would think, from a family point of view, unless there was guarantee somewhere else that to remain at Port Adelaide for a little bit longer and gain some more experience, his opportunity will come.”

Hinkley answered the frequent question of his own position – his job was on the line last year before Port surged into the (home-and-away) top four – by saying that he was not concerned with contracts.

“Contract or no contract, it doesn’t worry me. I mean I do my absolute best every year. I set out to do what I can to help the club hopefully achieve success and at the end of the day that’ll take care of itself and whether you do or you don’t, we’ve seen in this industry for plenty of years contracts don’t necessarily mean that much other than to the media, because it’s a timeline. The reality is we all know we have to perform every year and that’s what I expect.

Asked if expected to remain in the position if Port missed finals, he said: “Hypothetical, it’s probably not one to even consider for me. I don’t expect not to play finals.

“Our expectation at the start of this year is to be capable of winning a premiership. To believe that, you’ve got to believe you’re in the mix and that’s certainly what we believe at Port.”

Butters’ free agency decision

Superstar midfielder Zak Butters made a “commonsense” decision to sign a two-year extension to take himself to free agency, instead of a long-term deal like his peer Connor Rozee, according to Hinkley.

Victorian Butters signed a two-year extension – which Hinkley pointed out tied him to Port for three seasons – while his similarly gifted teammate and new skipper Rozee signed a mammoth eight-year contract last year.

Zak Butters.Credit: Getty/Nathan Perri

Hinkley said Butters, 23, who was voted the best-performed player of 2023 by the competition’s coaches, was “just doing what he should do” by signing for two seasons, putting himself into free agency in 2026.

“I think it’s entirely his choice and it should be,” the Port coach said.

“Like any footballer in this industry, you’re at a stage once only when you’re a footballer and you need to make clear and good decisions for yourself, if you’re still working through some of those decisions.

“Connor is totally different. Connor is a South Australian boy and … there was never a need for Connor to probably sit and consider [other offers] and I think that’s what every Victorian boy has done when they go interstate. I think most of them would give themselves the option. But I have no question at all that Zak is very happy and Zak’s just doing what he should do, I think.

“You can imagine the way he’s playing, what’s next for Zak, I think he’s playing a bit with the cards in his hands. He’s got a full house at the moment.”

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Hinkley’s endorsement of Butters signing until he becomes a free agent follows the stance of Essendon’s Brad Scott, who backed Darcy Parish’s call to wait and see how the 2023 season went before he decided not to exercise his free agency rights and stay at the Bombers.

The Port coach said there were similarities between Butters and Gary Ablett jnr, whom Hinkley mentored when he was an assistant coach at Geelong.

“I think he shows some things like Gary jnr certainly showed. [They are] both very, very talented footballers, I know that they’re both incredibly good human beings,” Hinkley said.

“If Zak goes on to be anywhere near the player Gary jnr was, he’ll be very happy with his career.”

Butters, recruited from the Western Jets at the 2018 national draft, will be able to command a huge deal of more than $1 million per season when he becomes a free agent, with most, if not all, Victorian clubs expected to be interested in him.

Horne-Francis has ‘something to beat’ in Nick Daicos

Hinkley predicted that Jason Horne-Francis, who had virtually no pre-season in his first year at Port, would be better this year, having achieved what he did last year without much preparation.

“In comparison, he’s in the same draft as Nick Daicos. He’s got something to beat still.”

Hinkley, who hoped the “very unfair” booing of Horne-Francis would cease, said Horne-Francis did not begin training “until basically the end of January.

“He’s done a complete pre-season, never missed a session. He has to be a better player, purely by just youth developing, but his desire to be a better player, too, is incredible. I think he’s capable of being a great player.”

Hinkley said his wish was that the booing ceased.

Nick Daicos and Jason Horne-Francis were picked up in the same draft.

Nick Daicos and Jason Horne-Francis were picked up in the same draft.Credit: AFL Photos

“I hope [he is ] not [booed], is my personal view. I think we should encourage our athletes to be as good as they can be and make them feel – like when they’re out there playing football, they haven’t forced the world to have a big problem.

“You imagine a 19-year-old boy trying to deal with that and the pressure. We all talk around the challenges of mental health these days, yet we find it a free for all when it comes down to something like that, that we can have our piece and take no responsibility.”

Why Boak played on this year

Hinkley said the decision of decorated veteran Travis Boak to play on in 2024 was founded on a view that he would make an impact. The coach noted that most premiership teams were ranked among the top three in the league for experience – experience’s value evident in the key roles played by Joel Selwood, Patrick Dangerfield, Tom Hawkins and Scott Pendlebury in 2022 and 2023.

“Travis took and needed all the time to make his decision to continue on with his career,” Hinkley said.

Travis Boak is playing on this season.

Travis Boak is playing on this season.Credit: Getty/Nathan Perri

“You want to have a meaningful impact at your club, which he’s already done. He took Jason Horne-Francis overseas [to a training camp in Colorado] … Jason learned a lot from him.

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“People like Travis are smart enough and understand enough to make the right decision, so you give them the time to make that decision. What he did is take time. And he didn’t make that decision on one [good] game at the end of the year,” Hinkley added, referring to Boak’s strong performance in the Power’s season-ending semi-final loss to GWS.

“In my time in footy, you have to be a pretty mature team to ultimately be successful.

“I saw Scott Pendlebury, I think, nearly single-handedly win the last quarter for Collingwood in last year’s grand final.”

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