Ainslie's Ken McGregor has returned to South Australia.

Ainslie's Ken McGregor has returned to South Australia. Photo: Graham Tidy

Former Adelaide Crows forward Ken McGregor was getting excited about playing for Ainslie in next year's North East AFL season, but checking his email account while on holiday in Bali changed all that.

Now he's the senior coach of South Australia NFL club Port Adelaide Magpies - despite being contracted to the Tricolours as an assistant coach for another year.

It also means his budding career as a political journalist could be put on hold.

McGregor was in Bali for a wedding when he checked his email account and the Magpies had sounded him out about taking the reins from Tony Bamford.

Before joining Ainslie, McGregor led Glenelg to a South Australia NFL reserves premiership last year after playing 152 AFL games for the Crows in a 10-year career.

The opportunity at Port was one he could not refuse and he signed a two-year deal.

He will move closer to family and friends and spoke to his Tricolours teammates at the first night of pre-season on Wednesday.

''[Adelaide] was always a drawcard and I was always looking at going back there,'' McGregor said. ''But I was hoping it would at least be another year before that because there's still some unfinished business with Ainslie, obviously with work as well, but it was just an opportunity I can't say no to at the moment if I want to be a coach.''

McGregor kicked 58 goals in his one-and-only season with the Tricolours, with injuries limiting him to 16 appearances.

While disappointed at McGregor's departure, Ainslie coach Chris Rourke felt there was a positive for the Canberra club.

''It's obviously exciting for him and once again it shows I seem to pick the right people [at Ainslie],'' Rourke said. ''My last three assistant coaches have all gone on to very good jobs - I've had two poached to go and assist in the SANFL and then Tony [Bourke] got the job at Eastlake.

''So obviously we must be doing something right here.''

Magpies general manager Brian Leys said McGregor's role would be as a non-playing coach and his playing days were over.

Leys said McGregor's knowledge of football was what the club found attractive.

''He's not long out of the game, he understands the game really well and he understands Port Adelaide and what we're trying to achieve,'' Leys said.

''Ken's knowledge of the game and how he'll relate to the players will be something that will overcome his lack of senior experience … he had a pretty good record with Glenelg and the people we spoke to said he relates really well with the players and he can certainly get the best out of the players.''

McGregor was unsure when he would return to Adelaide, but Port has already started pre-season training, so he was hoping it would be as soon as possible.