Latest News Super skipper Swan pumped to be back
Super skipper Swan pumped to be back
Posted on 20/07/2011
EAST Perth captain Michael Swan was rapt to make his return in the Royals' big win over Perth on Saturday and now is looking forward to keeping his team's chances of a finals appearance alive with a group that includes youngsters and mid-range players taking the next step.
The Royals skipper had a horror injury run for much 2008 and 09, but was able to play out most of last season and help lead the team all the way to a stirring run into the preliminary final.
He was then also feeling as fit and fresh as he has in years entering 2011 and made a superb start spending significant time in the midfield for the first time in several years.
However, an unlucky knee injury suffered in Darwin in East Perth's Foxtel Cup win over the Northern Territory Thunder meant he has been on the sidelines since that game in Round 11.
The bone bruising and cartilage damage in his knee took some time to heal and while the 133-game veteran was out it certainly was a challenging time for the club for a host of reasons, but on the field it turned around on Saturday with a 64-point win over Perth at Medibank Stadium.
Swan was outstanding as well with 19 possessions and two goals, and was just thrilled to be back out there and help the team record a crucial win that keeps them in the finals' race still.
"It was awesome on Saturday to be out there again on the field to actually be able to make an impact and help the team out. It was really important that we did have that win because if we didn’t we would have been last on the ladder," Swan said.
"That's not a position anyone wants to be obviously and it definitely does keep our season alive with a really important game this week against East Fremantle. We had a real slow start and Perth came out and played a really good first term.
"Boobie gave us a big rev up at quarter-time and the boys responded really well by being able to kick eight goals in that second quarter. From there we went on and had a good win."
Since Swan went down with his knee injury, the Royals didn’t win until Round 15 against Peel and now has actually won two straight WAFL games with the Foxtel Cup loss to Williamstown in between.
However, there was also the retirements of Graham Polak and Craig Glancy, departure of Kayne Pettifer and some other off-field dramas that East Perth could have done without.
That made it especially tough for Swan to be on the sidelines during, so he was as happy as could be to return on Saturday and to have a big impact.
"Having Polly getting knocked out a few weeks ago and seeing him lying there was very disturbing and that really got the boys down. Then Plucka having to retire as well and also the issue has been really disappointing for the whole group," he said.
"The group has shown good resilience, though, and put those issues to the side just to try and focus on developing themselves as much as anything with our game plan, and as individuals to become better players.
"It has been really hard having to watch from the sidelines because there really isn’t a lot you can do when the team's out there playing unfortunately. It's more of a relief to just be back on the field to have an impact, and contribute to the team."
While the 2011 season might have been a tough one for East Perth to date, there are certainly some shining lights including Brendan Lee's outstanding on-ball form, Garry Moss now finding his best midfield and goalkicking form and Craig Wulff's leadership in the midfield in recent weeks.
Swan certainly took notice of the efforts of those three players as he was forced to watch on.
"Binga has been outstanding all year and he's easily our best midfielder, and one of the form midfielders of the competition. He's done a fantastic job having to carry a lot of the load through the midfield," he said.
"Mossy's form over the last five or six weeks has been outstanding because he can get forward to kick goals as well. Wulffy going in there has given us a lot of hardness and he can win the contested football and drive it forward to give the forwards a chance."
There is also an exciting young brigade coming through at the Royals that includes ruckman Brock Higgins, defender Nathan Blee, the hard running Steven Payne and exciting young forwards Shaquille McKenzie, Chris Warrell, Arthur Bennell and Rob Macaulay.
"It is really exciting and it's great that a lot of those guys have stepped up to the plate. Nathan Blee has been outstanding down at full-back and centre half-back all year, and taken on really big jobs for us and has won I reckon 85 per cent of his match-ups throughout the season," he said.
"For his development it has been fantastic. Brock Higgins coming in the last month has been really good in the ruck too and he gives us that extra person to use around the ground.
"Steven Payne has been another good one who has been at the club for a few years now and he's playing some really good football across the wing. Shaq McKenzie as a 17-year-old has had his chance over the last three weeks and shown some good form too, so it is exciting to have these young guys get given an opportunity and then go out and try to make the most of it."
The leadership that Wulff provided to East Perth with Swan out was superb and now the pair of them carry the load in terms of experience at the club with Glancy, Luke Webster, Adam Pickering, Brent Cowell, Andrew Merrington and Zach Beeck all having retired since early in 2010.
While Swan noticed how good Wulff did as captain in his absence, the next batch of leaders are also starting to stand out.
"Wulffy did do an excellent job and we have a good relationship, and share the load quite well together. We do have important roles as leaders, but there is a lot of opportunities for other guys to step up and show their leadership credentials," he said.
"That has been happening as well with Brendan Lee, Garry Moss and Josh Smith providing really good leadership. We've got a couple of young fellas too like Freddie Clutterbuck and Rowan Brookes who help provide some leadership too, especially on the training track which is excellent for their development and that of the group."
Swan now is fully focused on playing some strong football personally to close out 2011 and if the team turns that into more victories than losses, then a second successive finals appearance remains a chance.
"We have six games to go in the regular season and there's six more opportunities to try and put my best foot forward to play to the best of my ability," Swan said.
"Also for the team we still hope to get something out of the season and sneak into the final four."
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