Hinkley preparing for highly physical contest against the Blues

Ken Hinkley pictured in Round 11. Image: AFL Photos.

NEITHER Port Adelaide nor Carlton is short of midfield talent to excite in Thursday night’s top-eight blockbuster at Adelaide Oval – and to load up two impressive attacks.

And Port Adelaide is better prepared this season to deal with the threat of tall forwards such as Carlton duo Harry McKay and Charlie Curnow.

The trade gains of Esava Ratugolea and Brandon Zerk-Thatcher become more evident as Port Adelaide seeks to avoid a repeat of the last meeting in which Carlton scored 18 goals.

“There is no doubt about that,” Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley said at Alberton on Tuesday morning. 

“When you come up against the size of those two boys – and the talent that they have – it certainly explains the reason we went looking last year to find some players to help us in that area.

“Esava last week was enormous in keeping (North Melbourne goalkicking machine) Nick Larkey without a goal for the first time in 26-27 games. That is a pretty strong performance.”

Port Adelaide is conceding an average 78 points a match, seven less than last season –  and has given up a 100-point score or more just once.

“We are going okay,” said Hinkley. “Our win-loss record (8-3) would say we are doing okay in most phases of the game. We have not always been perfect. We have had some challenges at different times be it defence or offence.

“We have let some goals get through that we would prefer not to. And we have missed some we would have preferred to kick. But we have put a good body of work together that puts us in a healthy position.”

Port Adelaide celebrates its win against North Melbourne in Round 11. Image: AFL Photos.

SELECTION: Expect key forward Charlie Dixon to resume after being managed against North Melbourne.

But wait until the last minute to be sure captain Connor Rozee stays in the line-up after rolling an ankle in Hobart on Saturday.

“We will give it to the very last minute to figure it out,” Hinkley said. “But if there is any danger, we will not play him.”

Hinkley makes the distinction between Rozee’s current challenge of a sprained ankle and the hamstring injury that derailed his appearance in the recent Showdown.

“This one is different; it is not soft tissue,” Hinkley said. “This is a more manageable injury. There will be more pain than danger of hurting it again. This is a more manageable injury. It is about dealing with the pain of a sore ankle – you can get through with a sore ankle. And with the bye (after this game) there is plenty of time to rest and recover.

“We will be bullish right to to the moment (of the 7pm start to the match).”

Connor Rozee will be assessed and given every chance to play against the Blues. Image: AFL Photos.

Small forward Willie Rioli will miss with a calf injury.

“We have plenty of options,” said Hinkley nominating Travis Boak, Jason Horne-Francis and Rozee (as he did at the weekend) to fill a gap in attack. “We are not going to replace Willie exactly but there are other options.”

RUCK CALL: Ivan Soldo is back in contention for selection, setting up a fascinating call as to who leads the ruck against Carlton ruckman Tom De Koning.

“He got through everything we wanted him to get through last week at SANFL level – and is available to be selected,” Hinkley said.

“We will pick the ruck (from Soldo, Jordon Sweet and Dante Visentini) who gives us the best opportunity to compete against Carlton.”

Ivan Soldo is in contention to line up against Carlton after returning via the SANFL last weekend. Image: AFL Photos.

MEETING VOSS: Across the aisle at Adelaide Oval will be Hinkley’s former right-hand man, Michael Voss.

“And he has a very good team,” Hinkley noted. “Carlton has been a very good team for a good period of time and we know how hard they will be. 

“In the contest, they will play like their coach would like to play. It will be pretty physical, so we have to be ready for that.”

BALL: As his colleagues publicly express their frustration with the holding-the-ball calls, Hinkley has one message for his players on the AFL’s most-confusing rule: “Play to the whistle. That is my clear instruction. Play to the whistle. Don’t assume. Don’t guess. Play to the whistle. I instruct the players to play right to the end.

“It is a hard game to umpire and holding-the-ball is real challenge for everyone at the moment,” Hinkley added. “I certainly do not have the answer.”

Ken Hinkley has instructed his side to “play to the whistle”. Image: AFL Photos.

DRAFT CALL: Port Adelaide can take one call at the AFL mid-season draft on Wednesday with half-forward Sam Powell-Pepper on the long-term injury list after knee surgery.

“We can – if we want to – have a pick,” said Hinkley. “Whether we do, is still to be decided. 

“If there is a player there who can help us improve and help us through the back end of the year we will look (at a selection).

“(List manager) Jason Cripps and his team are over all the options. We will pick the best player available to us … if we pick.”

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