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Football Department update

Friday, November 6, 2020 - 9:21 AM

East Perth Football Operations Manager Warren Parker has given an update on where the club is at ahead of pre-season.

A number of players have re-signed for 2021 over the past couple of weeks – how important is it to see players recommitting to the club?

WP: It’s extremely important. Since coming out of the alignment in 2018, we’ve managed to establish a good young core group of players, which we’re still developing and we also brought in some recruits to strengthen the side. From a results point of view, we feel that we’ve fast-tracked and we’re right where we want to be pushing towards finals. The idea now is to keep that young talent at the football club to help us bridge that gap and take that next step. Young players like Matthew Young, Jayden Magro, Jaxon Cahill and Kye Willcocks signalling their commitment to the club, along with a number of other young players, is really good for the long term health of the club and we’re really confident those guys are going to continue taking steps forward in their development.

What areas have been identified for improvement for 2021?

WP: We’re always looking to improve. We think we’re getting there with the game plan and education with the players. During the season, there were times when we didn’t get it right but when we did get it right we were really competitive and were able to tear some teams apart. Now we’ve got to take it to the next level, tweak a couple of things with the game plan and continue educating the players, particularly the new ones coming into the senior program from the Colts. Within our coaching stocks there are a couple of guys that won’t be going around again next year, so we’re looking to bring in some new coaches and upskill in those areas as well. And again, we’re looking to bring in some talent in areas we’re lacking in at the moment. There are still a couple of holes in our side, but we think if we can fill those holes, we’ll really be pushing towards finals and ultimately towards a league premiership.

The club was pretty active in its recruitment of players last off-season. Do you anticipate it will be similar this year and will you look to other WAFL clubs or delisted AFL players?

WP: We’re pretty settled on our core group of players, so we don’t feel like we need to add as many as we did a couple of years ago. At the time, we were still trying to fill a list out transitioning out of the alignment (with West Coast). We do have a few points (from the WAFL Player Points System) that we need to allocate. We’re looking to build and add a couple of players to the list, but we certainly won’t be as active as what we were going into 2020.

What areas on the list are you looking to develop?

WP: We’re always looking to get better across all lines. At the moment, we feel we’ve got a pretty competitive ruck combination with Scott Jones, AJ (Ajang Ajang) and Tom Amos in there as well. We think we’re pretty competitive with the midfield we’ve got as well. A player like Nick Robertson will be the first to admit he didn’t have the greatest season (in 2020) after a few interruptions, but he’s really looking to hit the pre-season running and play some good footy, along with Angus Schumacher, who had an injury midway through last season. We’re confident that engine room is going to continue to grow. From a forwards perspective, Eddie Simpson has recommitted to the club which is really exciting. Sebit Kuek, we believe will keep developing. Jonathan Freeman, at this stage, will be staying over in Queensland and not coming back to WA. We’re looking at that tall forward area and we’re also looking to keep developing our defenders as well. With Kyle Anderson retiring, we still have to fill that key defender spot. It’s one that’s really important for us to keep growing. If we can look to build our defensive stocks over the off-season it will put us in a good position for 2021.

In terms of the leadership group for 2021 – do you see Jackson Ramsay stepping into the captaincy (after the departure of Pat McGinnity). Will there be a formal process around that?

WP: There is always a process but I’d envisage Jackson to step straight into a captaincy role. He grew enormously over the 2020 season, and was able to work really closely with Pat McGinnity,  Shag (Kyle Anderson) and the leaders beforehand. He’s a great candidate. He’s a fantastic player for the football club, he cares about the club, he cares about developing the players underneath him. Jackson is a great conduit from the coaching staff and Barney (Jeremy Barnard) through to the players in the way that he leads. I think it’s a natural progression for him to move into the captaincy. Obviously, there will be a process around that to make sure we get it right and then filling those roles around it - whether it be a co-captaincy or a standalone role with some selected leaders around to help him out during the season. We’ve got full confidence in Jackson, he’s a fantastic leader at the football club.

You mentioned some changes to the coaching stocks ahead of 2021 – are you able to give an update on that?

WP: A couple of the line coaches from the Reserves have decided not to go around again at this stage due to outside commitments. We’re looking to add a couple of coaches there and we feel like we’re going to be strong again with our reserves team. From a league point of view, it’s about working around time commitments with a number of coaches at the moment. We are actively seeking to add to our coaching fraternity. I’ve had a few discussions with a number of coaches that we’re hoping to bring over to the football club. All of those are early discussions at the moment, so there’s nothing further to report at this stage.

Former ruckman Paul Johnson was assisting in a ruck coaching role at the club at the back-end of last season. Will he continue that in 2021?

WP: We’d love to keep engaging past players. Paul was a very good WAFL player over the course of his career. Bringing guys like that back to the football club, to impart their knowledge on our young and developing players, is really valuable. We reached out to Paul midway through last season and asked if he’d consider coming down to the club a couple of times a week to work with Scotty Jones, AJ (Ajang Ajang), Tom Amos and Eddie Simpson to help develop their tall craft. For a number of those players, I think they improved greatly as the season went on off the back of a bit more specialised training. We loved having Paul back at the club, we’ll keep engaging him and hopefully he can still come down again in a part-time role, if not more, to help out our players. For some of those past players to come back to the club and put some specialist work into some of our current players is something Barney and myself are really keen on doing long term. Paul’s been great for us, for sure.

The players will return to training on November 16. Will they hit the ground running or will it be a slower progression into full training?

WP: It will be staggered in a sense. The players that didn’t play in the Reserves’ finals will come back on November 16 and those that played during the Reserves finals series will come back on November 23. We’ll train through to the traditional Christmas break and then come back post-Christmas on January 11. Our league side did miss out on playing finals, but for a certain period of time, we were in the finals and the club was buzzing. We felt that and we want to get there again and really push towards finals. The players are hungry for team success. With the Reserves winning a grand final, the league players have seen that, were part of that and really enjoyed that success as well. It’s really going to drive us now during the pre-season. The club is buzzing at the moment – the gym is full, the players are even doing their programs on a Saturday morning. They’re ticking a lot of boxes already and it’s really exciting, which will only be a great thing for the football club going forward. We know we need to improve and get better and the only way you do that is by putting in the work.