Football Department Update

Tuesday, March 24, 2020 - 7:49 PM by Katie de Haer

Football Operations Manager Warren Parker gives East Perth fans an update on how the club is managing the COVID-19 situation.

Obviously, these are unprecedented times for everyone, how is East Perth managing the (COVID-19) situation as a club?

WP: We’re managing it day by day. We’re getting updated information from different parties every day. As you said, these are unprecedented times – we don’t have a manual that we can go to and read through what the next steps are. We’re making calls as things come across the desk. Our immediate thoughts and priorities are with the safety of our players, our staff and the community in general. We’re just trying to play our part in keeping everyone safe and listening to the advice that we’re getting from the WAFC to make decisions on what we do next.

We know the players have been asked to train away from the club. How will they prepare for the season?

WP: We’ve given each player an individual program to do away from the club. It’s almost treating it as though it’s their summer break in some ways. It’s frustrating and hard to take, knowing that we were meant to be playing games and round one was only two weeks away. They’d almost finished their pre-season and were ready to play, so to go away from that is difficult for the players. But, the medical advice and the advice that’s out there is that players need to practise social distancing and self-isolating, where they can, to stop the spread of the virus. Hopefully, if we get the all clear to start training again and prepare for a season in the next month or so, they’ll be ready to get back into training and have a base fitness so that they’re not coming from too far behind. Again, our planning is around the safety and health of the players so we’ve got to make sure they’re keeping that in mind as well as keeping their fitness up.

What’s expected of them during that time? Is it almost equivalent to the training they had been doing at the club?

WP: Wes Salisbury, our Strength and Conditioning Coach, has done a heap of work behind the scenes in getting a program put together. We’ve had to look at all scenarios. There’s a conditioning element that they’ll keep up – so that’s two to three nights a week of running to maintain their base fitness and then there’s obviously the strength element that they’ll need to do. With gyms closed down around Perth and given they’re not permitted to come into the club at the moment – Wes has also designed a program that works around a home gym (if they have one), limited equipment and no equipment. We’ve had to be really flexible there. Wes has done a great job in making sure they have a program in place and are maintaining their base fitness. 

Has the WAFC given any more information to clubs on when it’s likely players can return?

WP: The WAFC, to their credit, have been really good. Luke Sanders, Cam Knapton and the guys there have given us updates when they can and are helping us to prepare for what might be ahead. Everyday this situation is changing, so the information that they give us can change overnight. Right now, the plan is still based on what the AFL set in place with May 31 being the targeted date to return to play, or, if not, after that. We’re planning for that but knowing a lot of it relies on what’s happening out there in the general public and if the situation continues to worsen, the season will go backwards. If we can flatten the curve, as they say, we might be a chance to start at the proposed date.

It’s probably changed a little bit now that the AFL have postponed their season but there was talk of an AFL mini draft for State League players. How would that impact East Perth?

WP: It’s probably one of the first things we looked at and it was only two weeks ago before this landscape started to change dramatically. It’s not something we’ve focussed on. There was talk of an AFL mini draft to raise the number of players at AFL clubs, if the season was changed and they needed to play more regularly. With the AFL now postponing their season, all talks around that have been suspended until we figure out what’s going on. If we were to lose our better players to the AFL, we’d obviously be rapt for them and the opportunity that they might get but we’d be devastated as well to lose them in a group that we think could have really contended this year, and could still contend this year based on what the season may look like. It’d impact us but we don’t know what that looks like at the moment and the landscape keeps changing. I’m sure the AFL will come up with some contingencies to make sure that their competition is strong when it comes back, whatever that looks like. 

It’s a bit hard to stay ‘connected’ in a time of social distancing. How are you making sure the players continue to stay connected and motivated for the season ahead?

WP: We feel gutted for them. Obviously, all clubs have put in a mountain of work over the pre-season and everyone comes into it thinking they’re a chance to win a premiership that year. For that rug to be pulled out from under them, two weeks out from the season, is really disappointing. First and foremost, the playing group are disappointed that they can’t play but they understand the role that this is playing – that it’s bigger than football and bigger than them at the moment. We’re making sure that they’re staying safe and healthy and that they understand what the landscape is like out there. The coaches are continually communicating with the players and we’re just trying to keep them as informed as we possibly can. It’s difficult, but they’re a good group of men and we’re hoping that they are there for each other in what would be a really stressful period. 

Obviously the support of our sponsors, members and fans will be vital during this time. Do you have a message for them?

WP: This virus is a really scary thing and something we’ve never seen in our lifetime. To all of our members, sponsors and supporters – stay safe, be there for each other and let’s make sure we get through this as well as we can. Obviously, WAFL clubs and football in general is in really uncharted waters at the moment with regard to what’s going to happen and these football clubs financially are on their knuckles anyway. We’re hoping we can really help the community out over the next couple of months from an East Perth Football Club point of view and give some people something to look forward to when the season starts again. We’re really going to need the support of everyone to stay afloat, that’s the reality of WAFL footy. We hope that everyone sticks with us and gets behind their local team because who knows what the landscape will look like in 12 months. Stay safe and stay with us, we really need everyone involved.