Since entering the AFL in 1997, Port Adelaide has had just four senior coaches. When looking at the rest of the league that is a surprisingly small number and considering Port has been in the AFL for over 20 years now, their coaches have been given time to get things right.
However, who is the best coach Port has had? What mark has been left on the club because of them? It was a great idea that was put forward to me to rank Port’s coaches to spark some debate among our fan base. Every person is going to have their own opinions on who is Port’s best ever coach, so I am going to put forth mine.
4. Matthew Primus
A Port Adelaide great but when Primus took over from Mark Williams, he was essentially thrown to the wolves. The team he inherited was simply shambolic and he did not have the talent around him to take Port back up the ladder.
He was there during arguably Port’s toughest period since entering the AFL. During his years in charge (2010-2012) Port finished 10th, 16th, and 14th while fans were just about nowhere to be seen and the now infamous idea to put tarps over the empty seats made Port a laughingstock.
It was a horrible way for one of the club's greats to be treated, however football is a results business and Primus did not get the results. Unfortunately for Primus, he had little to no influence on the club during his time as a senior coach as it was in shambles and Port never finished higher than tenth. The highlight of his tenure was Port’s comeback in round 8 against North Melbourne in 2012 in which they found themselves 32 points down with eight minutes to play and roared back to claim an unlikely win.
3. John Cahill
Port Adelaide’s first-ever AFL coach and took the job after leading the SANFL Magpies to 10 SANFL premierships between 1977 and 1995. He WAS Port Adelaide at the time, and he was a respected figure in the Port Adelaide community.
He only lasted two seasons in the AFL, winning 19 of his 44 games in charge but Cahill lost no fans in his attempts to bring the glory days of the SANFL to the national competition. My mother absolutely adored him during his time with the Magpies and the Power and I am sure numerous Port fans still feel the same.
He led Port to a ninth-place finish in their first year in the AFL and followed it up with a tenth-placed finish in 1998 as he set Port up in the AFL system.
2. Ken Hinkley
Ken took over from Matthew Primus in 2013 and he had his work cut out to turn around a club that was the laughing stock of the AFL competition. In his first year in charge, he took Port to seventh on the ladder and the Power played finals for the first time since 2007 where they finished second ( we all know how that ended).
The jury is still out on Ken as to whether he can in fact take Port to the promised land in the AFL. During his eight seasons at Alberton (2021 year nine), Port has finished in the top 8 just four times and this is what has fans unsure about his coaching ability.
You can not deny what he has done for this club. When he took over Port was a shambles, no one took them seriously but through his time at the helm, he has restored some respect to the club with their run and gun game style making Port must-watch football.
However for all the game styles and wins, Port has only been to two preliminary finals so the Power fan base still has questions surrounding his tactics and whether he is the man to take Port to their second grand final win.
He took the Power from a basket case in 2013 to what they are now in the AFL, a potential premiership contender so that has some merit but like all coaches, he will be judged on premierships, to which Port only have one and are still chasing a second.
It has to be, doesn’t it? Port Adelaide’s only premiership coach and was at the helm when they were an absolute force in the competition for four years straight. From 2001 to 2004 Williams led Port to a third-place finish, followed up by winning three consecutive minor premierships by finishing top of the ladder in 2002, 2003, and 2004.
In truth, Port should have split the flags with Brisbane during their time at the top ( two apiece) but the horrible “choker tag” sat with Port until their premiership triumph. Having been the best team for years, Port simply could not get to the big dance and it was a tag that started to weigh heavily on the club until 2004 when they broke through for their maiden premiership.
For me “Choco” has to be number one as he had Port at the top of their game for years and it culminated in a premiership and in truth it should have yielded at least one more. After years of nothing in the AFL with Port’s highest finish of seventh, Williams took over and turned Port into a powerhouse of the competition and the club has failed to hit the same heights ever since.
Ken Hinkley is closing on Williams as he has had Port at the top of their game currently, but Choco has the deciding factor. A premiership to his name.