Across the globe, few industries are more ruthless than sports. Because of the sector’s physical demands, age and injuries can unquestionably impact career longevity and selection processes. Recently, this issue has come to the forefront concerning the AFL, with Ken Hinkley publicly calling for more from his veteran players, Brad Ebert and Justin Westhoff. So, let’s consider whether the Port Adelaide coach was right to question two experienced players.

Laying Down the Gauntlet Isn’t Always a Bad Thing 

In sport, experience is an invaluable trait that is only acquired through years of hard work and unrivalled professionalism. That said, career longevity shouldn’t make competitors immune from criticism because of their previous contributions and success. Between them, Ebert and Westhoff have given a combined 21 years to Port Adelaide, but that hasn’t seen them avoid criticism from their 55-year-old coach.

According to a report by, Hinkley declared that both of his veteran players need to earn their places in the team, implying that reputation alone is no longer enough. The public call-out comes after both were dropped in advance of the one-time AFL winner’s clash with North Melbourne. Moreover, the decision to implement change comes following the Power’s victory over Geelong, which saw them retain their spot at the top of the table.
​Crucially, the decision to drop Westhoff – who has played 277 games for Port Adelaide – came through Hinkley’s desire to implement tactical alterations. As per TripleM, the 53-year-old believes that two ruckmen offer more mobility than Westhoff, who is predominantly playing as a forward. Furthermore, from an individual standpoint, this decision will likely hinder both Ebert’s and Westhoff’s chances of clinching individual accolades. At present, Ebert is 66/1 with Aussie Rules betting regarding Brownlow Medal individual player club votes, as of September 4th.

Pressurized Man Management Doesn’t Always Work

​Outside of the AFL, there are numerous examples of pressurised management resulting in fruitful player improvements and trophy-winning success. However, this is often rare. Perhaps the most notable example of this style in sport comes from Jose Mourinho, the current Tottenham Hotspur manager. The Portuguese coach is notorious when it comes to questioning his player. While his record somewhat speaks for itself concerning success, his man-management hasn’t always yielded positive results.

​Although, of course, there are distinct differences between football and Aussies Rules, managerial styles aren’t limited to specific sports. If Hinkley is drifting towards a Mourinho-like approach, then he may find himself being unable to once again get the best out of Ebert or Westhoff.
​Over the years, the two-time Champions League-winning manager has questioned the likes of Joe Cole, Juan Mata, and Ricardo Quaresma. Ultimately, according to Football Whispers, each failed to deliver their best performances after being singled out. There’s a lesson to be learned from this, and that’s that public questioning of professional athletes can drastically backfire. As such, Hinkley is taking a risk, especially calling out two Port Adelaide veterans.
How Will Ebert and Westhoff Respond?
Having given so much of their professional careers to Port Adelaide, both of the Power’s veterans may feel like any discussions should take place behind closed doors. However, being singled out in the press has the potential to spur players on to perform to their best, though it’s not guaranteed. What happens next will be fascinating, particularly given Ebert and Westhoff’s popularity among the team’s supporters.