After enduring seasons filled with long-term and niggling injuries, Port Adelaide defender Trent McKenzie is finally settled in the Power’s back six. The former Sun spoke to aflplayers.com.au about Port Adelaide’s start to the season, finding continuity in his game and daring to dream this season.
Kavisha Di Pietro: What was going through your mind in the final moments of Sunday’s game? I can only imagine the nerves from a player’s point of view given how I was feeling sitting on the couch.
Trent McKenzie: Yeah it was nervous times, and probably for me a bit more nervous because I was on Eddie Betts at the time so I didn’t want to make any mistake, I was lucky enough that the ball stayed out of my area. I think I was as close (to Robbie and that passage of play) as being near Tom Jonas when he marked the ball and started the passage of play. It was a great finish by Robbie in the end. To have it in his hands, I think we were pretty lucky. It was an amazing finish and one you dream of for Robbie especially, but also to play in… they’re the ones you want to win.
How was the flight back on Sunday? I know you guys got up really early so it was such a big day, but I imagine you would’ve been pretty excited or at least relieved heading back to Adelaide?
Yeah absolutely, it was a long day but we did it the week before so we were used to it. Obviously the win made it a lot sweeter and the boys were definitely up and about on the plane playing some card games and stuff like that. It was a good feeling and a good mood on the plane home.
Good win by the boys yesterday. Never thought I’d play more home games for @PAFC at Metricon than the Adelaide oval but it was good to be back! 🍐
— Trent Mckenzie (@tmckenzie18) July 13, 2020
When you do the fly-in fly-out model which is something that’s been new this year because of the impact of COVID-19 and the current situation we’re in, how much does it change your preparation in terms of being ready for the game?
It is different. We didn’t really know how to approach it in the first week, we kind of had to make it up because nobody’s really done it before. We were trying a few things last week, whether to sleep on the plane or do stuff like that. I think the second time around we kind of got a feeling of how it worked the week before, and we obviously had a win the first time we did it against the Giants so we tried to keep it pretty similar. I think everyone was different in the way they went about it but it obviously worked so if we have to do it again, which I’m sure we will, we’ll probably keep the preparation pretty similar I reckon.
It’s been a really impressive start to the year from Port Adelaide as a club, what do you think has changed for the team or the way things are going this season?
We’ve worked a lot with our connection off the field. I think the hub helped a lot with that, the boys definitely got a lot closer playing a few games with each other. Especially for me as a defender coming in, learning the way Tom Jonas and Tom Clurey go about it. Working together with them, I think the boys are starting to gel a bit more and it’s starting to show on the field. Hopefully we can take it to another level and go a bit further.
There was a fair bit of pressure on coach Ken Hinkely and the club last year. Are you embracing each week and win and everything that comes with footy as a group knowing how challenging it is when you’re not in the winning side?
Definitely, I know how that feels. It’s obviously good winning a few games so hopefully we can keep it that way, but we know we’ve got a lot of work to do and the season is throwing up some fair curve balls. We just have to keep adapting to that and playing the way we know how to play. It’s obviously working at the moment so if we can keep it pretty similar I think it’ll go a long way.
From a personal perspective you’ve really been able to cement yourself in the 22 this year and find a bit more continuity in your game as well. How does it feel to be back playing consistent football and actually being able to get out on the park?
Yeah it’s pretty amazing for me personally. I’ve had my troubles with injury and I know how hard it is trying to get back in the side and getting that continuity with your body and stuff like that. I’m pretty happy at the moment just to be out there playing football and be winning as well, that makes it a lot easier. As I said, I’m just happy to be back playing AFL football and consistently so hopefully I can keep that going.
You joined the Power a couple of years ago and knew Ken from your days back on the Gold Coast. Was he a factor in bringing you to the club and what he was able to offer you if you joined the Power?
Yeah, definitely. Having spent a couple of years at the Gold Coast with Kenny, he knew the way I went about it and how I played so I had the trust in him to work with him. It’s worked out pretty well, it’s taken me a bit of time to cement myself into the side but we work pretty well together. I trust him and the way he goes about it and he does the same with me so it was a pretty easy decision to come over here for me.
It was a challenging first two seasons for you as well which you eluded to, and I imagine when you join a new club you want to be able to impact straight away and do as much as you can. How did you navigate that period, particularly when you’re injured as well and removed from the main group a little bit?
It was pretty tough. I hurt my ankle in my last game (for Gold Coast before being delisted). I was injured when I got to Port Adelaide, so it did make it hard in the pre-season when you’re not training with the boys. Especially with a new group, you want to try to get to know your teammates so that made it pretty tough. We did have a camp up on the Sunshine Coast which made it a lot easier in getting to know the boys. The more time you spend with them the easier it’s going to be, and I was lucky enough to be picked up again for another year to get to know my teammates even more. It’s starting to show now, which is good.
Did that game last year where you were recalled to the senior side in Round 23 give you that hope and rejuvenation you needed going into the off-season and ahead of this year?
Yeah, definitely. When you’re out for so long you probably start to question yourself whether you can play at the level. I got my opportunity to show I could do that and I played a pretty good game. I was happy with that, it gave me some confidence going into the SANFL finals and also into the pre-season this year. I took a lot out of that game, for sure.
This year despite the disruptions with COVID your football has been really consistent, what do you think has changed for you that allowed you to get that continuity in your game?
To be honest not a whole lot’s changed in my football. I suppose it’s just being able to train consistently and more often that’s helped me, and given me confidence to play my own game when I know my body’s going to hold up. That’s probably been the main thing, but I haven’t tried to change too much to be honest.
Who have been some of the key mentors or influences for you around the club as a group?
The whole of the defensive group firstly, but probably Tommy Jonas and Tom Clurey. I spend a lot of time with them at training and off the field as well, they’ve been huge. Trying to break into the side, it was obviously tough the first couple of years with them playing some good footy. I’ve just tried to work off them and work with them now, which has been handy. Also the coaches, obviously Ken (Hinkley), Brett Montgomery and Matty Lokan (Port Adelaide SANFL coach). They’ve showed a lot of faith in me so I owe a lot to them as well.
We’re only seven rounds down but the Power are having a pretty good season so far. As a group do you dare to dream about what you can achieve this year?
Yeah it is an exciting time around the footy club at the moment, but as I said before it’s a tough season and we don’t really know where we’re going to play next. So we’re trying to keep our head down, keep focused and keep playing our game plan which is holding up at the moment. Everything’s changing so quickly these days, you’ve got to be ready for everything. We’re starting to believe in ourselves a little bit which is good, it’s where you need to be to be challenging for premierships that’s for sure.
Thanks for your time and good luck for the rest of the season as well.
No worries, thanks a lot.