Saturday afternoon sees Port Adelaide take on the Brisbane Lions at the Adelaide Oval, in a match that Port are using to celebrate the 10-year reunion of their 2004 premiership win over the Lions. 10 years after their triumph, this match will see the only two Power players remaining at the club attempting to defeat the Lions yet again, in former skipper Dom Cassisi and games record holder Kane Cornes.
Cornes is an interesting case study, as the veteran under Ken Hinkley’s coaching has blossomed, placing third in the best and fairest last year behind Chad Wingard and Travis Boak in a season in which Port defied expectations and played finals football.
However, Cornes has had to fight hard to regain his standing at the Power, as after winning his third best and fairest in 2010, his 2011 season under the coaching of Matthew Primus saw Cornes struggle averaging just 22 disposals per game, a drop from 27.6 the previous year. It seemed as though Cornes’ time was up at AFL level after having been dumped back to the SANFL during the season and only making 17 senior appearances.
With the initial retirement and later move of his elder brother Chad to the Giants at the end of the season, combined with Kane’s struggles, many would have expected him to move on.
However, still under contact for 2012, Cornes stayed put and a change in role saw a rejuvenation in Cornes’ game and he responded to the challenge of his below par efforts of 2011, winning his fourth best and fairest award, despite a disappointing season overall for the Power. He returned his average disposal rate up to an impressive 25.4 per game and he continued this regeneration in 2013 under new coach Hinkley. Last season saw Cornes improve his numbers yet again, averaging 27.4 disposals per game and he recorded a career-high total of 107 tackles.
So far in three games this season, Cornes is averaging 27.7 disposals and 4.3 tackles per game, and is showing no sign of slowing down at the age of 31. He sits quite comfortably in the best five players at the Power and his continued good form will be a crucial element of the Power’s bid to qualify for the 2014 finals.
With the recent outstanding form of 35-year-old Brent Harvey at North Melbourne, the resurgence of Cornes’ career is proof yet that quality does not simply end at the age of 30, and that many players are capable of playing near career-best football at a time when many in the media are pensioning these players off.
Cornes at his current level can expect to play on next year and beyond and possibly be a part of Port Adelaide’s next premiership team, a thought that many would have considered impossible just two short years ago.
This is testament to not only the coaching skills of Ken Hinkley, but also the work ethic and commitment of the gifted midfielder. Kane Cornes will surely be remembered for years to come as an all-time Port Adelaide great, and he certainly deserves it.