CAMPERDOWN'S bustling change rooms would fall silent when coach Ken Hinkley began to speak.
He didn't mince words but the overwhelming vibe was always positive.
Trevor Lee was vice president when the now Port Adelaide coach led Camperdown to back-to-back Hampden league premierships at the turn of the century.
He could tell then Hinkley, who will receive AFL life membership this weekend when he notches his 300th game as either a player or coach, had what it took to make the elite level.
"The thing that got me the most with him was after every game he would sit them all down and for every player he would come up with something they did through the game," Lee told The Standard this week.
"Everybody was spellbound. The players never made a sound and the rooms were absolutely choc-a-block (with supporters) because they wanted to hear how he analysed each player.
"It was a thing I hadn't seen before. It was incredible. Someone might have done something in the first five minutes and he still remembered it."
It is one of the lasting impressions Hinkley - affectionately known as Kenny from Camperdown - made at Leura Oval.
He was a multi-faceted coach. A positive, professional people person.
Premiership teammate Gary O'Neil believes Hinkley's mind games brought out the best in the Magpies, who were premiers and champions in 1999 before dropping just one game on their way to back-to-back flags in 2000.
"I remember in pre-season we did a 3km time-trial and we recorded all our times," O'Neil, who captained the 2000 side, recalled.
"Six weeks into the season we were undefeated and we did it again.
"Kenny said 'fantastic, everybody beat their time'. I only found out after the season when we were talking one day (that we didn't). He said 'three quarters of the players never made their time'."
The players weren't as fit but, on a winning streak, O'Neil assumes Hinkley thought it was best not to dent morale.
John Molan was president during Hinkley's two-year stint and saw first-hand his mind games pay off too.
"In 2000 we won it again with only having lost one game," he said.
"I still think he set us up to lose that. It was against South Warrnambool at South and we weren't playing too well and he changed the team around a lot that day.
"We got beat and after that we never looked back again. He is a very clever coach."
Long-time football manager Keith Stephens said Hinkley had an aura which commanded respect.
"As football manager, I'd go recruiting with him and you'd go into a room to meet the parents," he said.
"He doesn't speak loudly but he just held everyone's attention and you could see the parents were really keen to send their young sons to play under him.
"Whenever he says something, it's worth listening to. He doesn't waste words."
Those premiership seasons were Hinkley's second coming at Camperdown.
He was born-and-bred in the south-west town, playing his first senior game under legendary coach Alan Woodman in 1983 before embarking on a VFL career with Fitzroy and Geelong.
He had a stint as Mortlake coach before returning home.
His first foray into AFL coaching came at St Kilda in 2001, under Malcolm Blight, followed by two seasons and a premiership at Geelong league club Bell Park.
Geelong came calling again and Hinkley spent six seasons at Kardinia Park as an assistant, winning flags in 2007 and '09, before moving to Gold Coast.
Port Adelaide appointed him senior coach in 2013 and now he has the Power atop the AFL ladder in his eighth season at the helm.
No one at Camperdown - a town 192 kilometres west of Melbourne - is surprised.
Lee, who gave Hinkley a job at his business during his Fitzroy playing days, said his former employee was astute.
"He was very thorough, he held everybody in high command and each player was an equal to him," he said.
"Even our reserves played extremely well that year because they wanted to play under Kenny."
Stephens, whose official connection to the Pies spans 31 years, said "the players really looked up to him".
"A lot of us around our club felt he went unnoticed when it came to an AFL coaching position - he should've got one a lot earlier," he said.
"The two years he was with us were absolutely super. His discipline, his knowledge of football and his leadership of men was just outstanding.
"He led us brilliantly in '99 as a playing coach and he was even better as a non-playing coach."
Molan, whose son Luke was drafted to Melbourne with pick nine in the 2001 AFL super draft, said Hinkley had belief - first as a player and then as a coach.
"He was a pretty skinny young fella but he was able to read the play so well, had great balance on his feet and good determination to make a success of himself," he said of Hinkley's playing days.
O'Neil remembered Hinkley's positive impact although he conceded, tongue in cheek, "we never lost a game, so you never really saw a bad side of him".
"He set down the laws and the rules and said 'if anyone doesn't like it, there's the front gate'," he said. "He gave us a vision at the start and he was very professional."
Chris Meade, who now coaches South Warrnambool's under 18 female side, played his first senior game alongside Hinkley, was best man at his wedding and played under him in 1999. He knew Hinkley would impress at AFL level.
"You could tell he had the makings of it. He was certainly very talented," Meade said.
"He got down to Fitzroy and played well but just hated Melbourne and then got an opportunity a little bit later to go to Geelong which was a bit closer to home. He relished the opportunity to play at Geelong."
- Ken Hinkley will notch his 300th AFL game when Port Adelaide plays GWS Giants on Sunday. Coincidentally it will be against another former Hampden league player-turned-AFL coach in Leon Cameron