Season Preview: Jeremy Barnard Q & A

Thursday, March 12, 2020 - 4:10 PM by Katie de Haer

League Coach Jeremy Barnard gives East Perth fans an insight into preparations for the 2020 season.

2020 will be your second season at the helm of East Perth. What are some of the learnings that came out of your first year at the club?

JB: Last season, we focused on developing and getting the players used to our brand new game plan and different teaching methods that perhaps they may not have been exposed to before. We really worked hard on that. We were a bit behind on the eight ball on a few of our physical attributes. We felt we weren’t fit enough and we also felt we were behind on our strength program, so we’ve addressed those two. It was about understanding the new terminology and the nuances of a new game plan – they were the key learnings out of the year.

As a former East Perth player and premiership captain, did you feel any extra pressure to perform as a coach?

JB: Not particularly, except for the internal expectations. We expect to have a winning environment at East Perth and that was certainly the culture that I developed at the clubs I coached in Victoria. That would be an East Perth expectation regardless of whether we’d just split from the Eagles or not. We’re a winning football club and winning games of football is what we’re here to do.

In terms of the coaching structure for this year, have there been any changes?

JB: Adam McMahon unfortunately had to give it away. He was our backline coach. We’ve brought Jy King in, he was our bench coach/midfield coach last year and he’s filled that spot. The other positions have stayed the same at the senior level. At Reserves level, we’ve got a new Reserves Coach, Aaron Ballantyne, and a new midfield coach in Sam Parker. They are supported by Kim Beasland and Neville Williams, who have been here the last few years. There have been a couple of changes, but we’re pretty happy with our structure. 

A lot has been spoken this pre-season about East Perth’s recruiting over the summer break – particularly in the midfield. Was that identified as an area for improvement post-season?

JB: We had a list management meeting half way through last year and at the end of the year and rated every player in all of their positions. That helps you identify where your gaps are. Clearly, we needed to strengthen up our midfield. The guys who performed in that role last year did a great job but they needed a bit more support. We were lucky enough to secure Scott Jones, who unfortunately was delisted from Fremantle. That’s helped our ruck stocks. We were also able to recruit players like Angus Schumacher (Carlton), Nick Robertson (Brisbane) and Aidan Lynch (West Perth), who have certainly helped our midfield depth. Having said that, we’re looking forward to the development of our other players like Matt Young and Christian Ameduri, who we expect to step up this year. We feel we’re in a really good spot in our midfield. In the forward line, we’ll continue to develop the players we’ve got, albeit, some of our midfielders will go forward. Ben McGuire and Shaq McKenzie will be really strong for us, as well as Eddie Simpson. We recruited Corey Watts (Sandringham Dragons) and Brad Fullgrabe (Swan Districts) to help us out in the key posts. We feel we’ve definitely added some depth and we’ll be looking for a stronger year. 

You mentioned Scott Jones has returned to the Royals after spending time on Fremantle’s list. You’ve also got Eddie Simpson and Ajang Ajang who can play in the ruck. Do you think all three can play in the league side? How will you balance that out?

JB: All three will be playing – 100%. We feel that’s an area we’ll look to expose sides on, having those talls available on the ground at all times and they can share the ruck. They all have attributes that will be hard for other teams to match up on. Ajang with his athleticism, Scott with his competitiveness and ruck craft and Eddie with his size and strength. We’re looking to value-add so that those guys can go forward and kick goals for us as well.

We know there are a few seasoned players in the East Perth line-up – Kyle Anderson, Pat McGinnity, Sharrod Wellingham and Nathan Blee. How much game time do you expect them to get this season? And, what role do you expect they’ll play?

JB: We’ve always been pretty upfront with our older players that we want them to be available for every game. We manage their workloads accordingly. We were able to get into Kyle (Anderson) last year probably more games than he’s ever played in one season for about the past 5-6 years. Nathan and Pat unfortunately had thumb injuries, which is just one of those things. We’ll be looking for really strong years from those guys. Sharrod is just that x-factor for us, but he had a couple of soft tissue injuries. In any good football side, especially the ones up top vying for premierships, you have a good mix of older players, developing players and those players who have played between 30-80 WAFL games. Finding that balance is really important. 

It’s been a pretty long, arduous pre-season. WA has endured record-breaking temperatures. Who’s stood out on the track for you? 

JB: The players have really embraced the pre-season. We’ve done a lot of work trying to bridge the gap really quickly and I’ve had nothing but huge respect for the way the players have applied themselves. There have been a number of players who have really done well. Angus Scott has been great with his running ability, Nathan Eaton has really got himself in great shape. Kyle Anderson has barely missed a session. As I mentioned before, Christian Ameduri, Matthew Young and Mitchell Dobson have worked hard. They’ve all worked really hard, we feel it will be a good basis for our season.

Subiaco Football Club have been the benchmark of the WAFL competition for more than a decade. What’s the key to beating them?

JB: Subiaco don’t need to be brought down to anyone’s level. We need to rise up to their level. True credit to them, they’ve been a great performing club for a number of years. We think we’ve got a few things up our sleeve that we’ll be able to use against them. One of Subiaco’s strengths is that they’re able to maintain a high competitive level for the whole game. We need to rise to that level. Having said that, we’re not only worried about Subi; there are a number of other WAFL clubs who will be very hard to beat this year  - South Fremantle and, of course, Claremont. We’ll be aiming for all of those clubs. But, we’ll probably worry a bit more about ourselves than other clubs!

East Perth will play three practice matches before the season proper. What can we expect from that?

JB: The players have been really desperate to play. I think they’re pretty much sick of training, they’re getting a bit grumpy now, so that’s a good thing for a coach. That means they’ve had enough of training. We play Carey Park on Saturday and that will be a great thing for our younger players and our players who who’ve transitioned up from Colts or in from lower grades. To play against seasoned men and to get hit and whacked around a bit will be good experience for them. Then we’ll play Swan Districts and Claremont, it will be two really solid games in preparation for Round 1 against Peel. We can’t wait to get to work.

Will you use the pre-season games as an opportunity to experiment with some players in different positions on the ground? Or will you stick to structures for Round 1?

JB: We’ll stick to planning for Round 1. We’ve only got those two games. We won’t muck around too much, we’ll get focused on what we want Round 1 to look like and sharpen right up.

If you go back in the history books - in 1999, East Perth finished second last on 5 wins and the following year they won the premiership. In 2019, the Royals finished second last, with 5 wins. Does that scenario give you confidence that the tide can turn pretty quickly?

JB: Absolutely. There’s no doubt with good dedication, really good coaching, great aptitude and a great sense of pride and comradery that you can turn any organisation around quickly. What we do know is that, confidence is hard to get and easy to lose. We’re really striving hard to get our confidence up. There’s no reason why you can’t turn a football side around really quickly. What you mentioned before is a great example of people applying themselves and having a common goal and you just never know what will happen.