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Wingard’s midfield move key to Port’s improvement
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TWO-TIME All Australian Chad Wingard can elevate himself to another level with a move into the midfield according to Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley.

In his first 107 games, Wingard stamped himself on the competition as a superb forward kicking at least 38 goals a season in the past four years.

However Hinkley remains excited at what being able to use the precocious 23-year-old as both a midfielder and a forward might mean for the team’s performance.

“I hope that he can elevate himself again as a player because he is still a young player who is getting better,” Hinkley told AFL.com.au.

“We get a bit excited by what that might look like [and] what that limit is I don’t know.”

With 18 touches, four clearances and a neat goal against St Kilda in Thursday night’s match against St Kilda, Wingard gave a glimpse of what he might provide to a different looking Port Adelaide.

It’s that difference that makes the Power an interesting watch in 2017 with Hamish Hartlett playing as a high defender, Jackson Trengove moving forward along with Nathan Krakouer and Paddy Ryder returning in the ruck.

“We had to make ourselves a bit different,” Hinkley said.

“If we were to continue down the same path we would probably continue getting the same results.”

Those results weren’t good enough so the coach went back to the drawing board.

The club also employed leadership consultant Gerard Murphy, who had success at Geelong in its recent golden era, to mentor the current crop of leaders.

The respected Travis Boak enters his fifth season as skipper with Ollie Wines now his vice-captain. Hartlett, Trengove, Brad Ebert and Tom Jonas remained in a trimmed down leadership group.

Hinkley, who was at Geelong in 2007 and 2009, said it was important the club invested in external leadership guidance to see if the players could benefit as he considered the situation at Port Adelaide somewhat analogous to the one he experienced at the Cats.

“We’re not dissimilar in that we’re looking to emerge a little bit more from that shadow of not quite sure who we are,” Hinkley said.

He said the pre-season had given the players a good sense of how they wanted the team to perform and it boiled down to the players being more consistent.

“The key thing you want to get with your identity is you want people to see it,” Hinkley said.

“You don’t want to tell them about it.”

It’s been a mantra held throughout the pre-season as Port Adelaide works on improving an Achilles heel from recent years: kicking.

After the first quarter on Thursday night it was hard to see improvement but by the end of the game the pattern was clearer.

Hinkley admitted post-game work was ahead of them but his overall approach is to back the players to get better even when inevitable mistakes happen.

“I still back them in. I still back my players. I think they will give me everything they have got.”

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