FOR KEN Hinkley, this was the moment his players had craved for so long.
Port Adelaide's 16-point qualifying final victory over Geelong at Adelaide Oval on Thursday night franked a superb home and away season that saw it top the ladder from go-to-whoa.
POWER INTO PRELIM Full match coverage and stats
Hinkley was particularly pleased with the "ruthless" way his players snatched the game from the Cats with a three-goal surge in the third term that established a match-winning buffer.
It was a stunning reversal from the last time the sides met seven weeks ago, when Geelong won by 10 goals on the back of a hulking Tom Hawkins performance.
Just qualifying for finals ended the Power's two-year run outside of the top eight, but it was also their first post-season triumph since 2014 – when they last made a preliminary final.
Former Lion Tom Rockliff played in his first final in his 205th match, highlighting more than any other Port footballer just how long they had waited for such an opportunity.
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"They know they have to qualify and they've done that," Hinkley said post-match.
"Now, they want their moment – and I think that's really important. They want two more games and they know they can't get ahead (of themselves).
"They can't go past the next game and they'll come competitive and they'll come ready to play, and they'll come to play a tough game of football again in a couple of weeks' time."
The Power advance straight to a preliminary final and earn a week off to rest weary bodies, none more so than Xavier Duursma (concussion) and Todd Marshall (shoulder).
Duursma's injury occurred in the third quarter, when he put his body on the line and came off second-best in a marking contest with Cat Mark Blicavs.
Hinkley said it was more of the same from a 20-year-old who's quickly established a reputation for such acts.
The coach also praised Marshall, who played out the match with a sore shoulder after hurting himself in the opening minutes.
"Todd Marshall is a special person and a special player," Hinkley said.
"He just had to hang in for us tonight … and he needed some help and support to get through the game, but to stay out there, then take that clutch shot from 45m or 50m from goal and be able to finish it (was impressive).
"He was still in a fair bit of pain, and I was so proud of Todd, to be honest, and I'm sure a lot of people will be proud of Todd tonight."
Plenty has been made of Hinkley's bold prediction in February that his side was "coming" and planned to contend for the premiership.
However, he said it wasn't just him who was supremely confident back then.
"I don't think (our belief) will change too much, because I think they had strong belief and we had strong belief as a footy club at the start of the year, right through," Hinkley said.
"We made some decisions and we've had great belief in each other, and we just knew sticking together was going to be really important.
"It's been a challenging season so far and there are bigger challenges to come, we hope, but … we believe in us as a football club and we believe in us as a community – we know we're good enough."