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Pickering Happy With Swans' Playing Group And Coaching Staff

Thursday, February 8, 2018 - 3:19 PM
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ADAM Pickering's previous trips to Steel Blue Oval might not have all been positive but the rookie Swan Districts coach is settling in coming into his first season in charge of the black-and-whites and is happy with both the playing group and coaching staff assembled.

Pickering will be the new Swan Districts senior coach in 2018 after Greg Harding decided to step down at the end of 2017 having been at the helm since 2011. Harding will now be in charge of the colts at Swans in 2018.

Pickering won the race to be his replacement having done a strong apprenticeship coaching reserves at both East Perth and Perth, and most recently the colts at the Royals. During that run as coach, he coached teams to three preliminary finals and a grand final.

Since retiring as a player at the end of 2010, ironically after a preliminary final loss to Swan Districts at Steel Blue Oval, following 111 WAFL games with East Perth on the back of his time in the AFL with Carlton and Richmond, Pickering has also been assistant coach with the Royals under both Tony Micale and Brian Dawson.

Understandably there were some nerves for Pickering ahead of that first night of pre-season training as he walked into Steel Blue Oval as the senior coach for the first time.

But now that pre-season is nearing an end and matches aren’t too far away, he has enjoyed the experience of being in charge and all the challenges that go along with it.

"It's been good and really enjoyable so far, but challenging as well. Coming to a new club, learning new names and then everyone looking to you as the senior coach has been challenging but really enjoyable at the same time," Pickering said.

"It was really exciting coming in for that first night of pre-season to be honest. I was nervous and you get the butterflies, but this is something I've always wanted to do so I was really excited to get my hands dirty and get stuck in."

When Pickering put his hand up to be Swan Districts' coach in 2018, he did so with great optimism of what the playing group was capable of achieving coming off a return to playing finals football in 2017.

While some experience did depart in the form of Tallan Ames, Ryan Crowley, Xavier Ellis and Jamie Bennell, the truth is at least the first three of those battled against their bodies for most of last year and the large majority of important playing from last season are back again.

With a core group including the likes of Adam Faulkner, Matt Riggio, Alex Howard, Kirk Ugle, Corey Gault, David Ellard, Tony Notte, Todd Banfield, Jarrad Blight and Matthew Rogers, Pickering knew they were blessed with experienced, proven players.

There is also an exciting group of emerging players coming through including those with league experience like Jesse Turner, Warrick Wilson, Brayden Noble, Jack Watson, Taryce Stewart, Brayden Hackett, Mitch Mackenzie, Tobe Watson and Levi Ridley.

That all meant there wasn’t a great need to go on a recruiting spree at Swans but the arrival of Rhys Palmer after 123 AFL games with Fremantle, Greater Western Sydney and Carlton is a significant boost.

Pickering couldn’t be happier with the list he will have at his disposal entering his first season as a senior coach. 

"When I looked at the squad last year I saw a lot of excitement. There were a few retirements from those top tier guys but really Xavier didn't play many games and Amesy and Crowley did battle injuries a bit," he said.

"Yes we lost those names but they might not have been influencing games as much as everyone was saying, and I looked at the squad overall and thought that yes it was young, but it had a great core group of WAFL footballers. 

"Then knowing the history of the footy club since I've been in Perth and the talent that comes through every year from the colts program, they hardly ever miss out on competing for the flag.

"I looked at that and thought that if we can harness that talent and keep them engaged, we might find a few more 150 or 200-game players like Tony Notte. I was excited by what I saw in the list for sure."

There has also been some turnover in the coaching staff under Pickering with Paul Sanzone joining from West Perth while Mitch Burgess has come across also from East Perth while Steve Malaxos remains and Daniel Wulf will take over as reserves coach.

"We've brought Paul Sanzone across from West Perth and I've been coaching against him for seven years basically through the reserves and colts. There's that old East Perth-West Perth rivalry obviously and he's just about the only West Perth person I've met who was decent," he said.

"So he has come on board and he'll do our midfield. And Mitch Burgess who was an assistant with me in the colts at East Perth the last couple of years has come across and he's going to look after our forwards. 

"Daniel Wulf will also take over as our reserves coach. I look at that and I look at the experience I have around me with Stav and Paul especially, and Phil (Smart) as our footy manager and I feel pretty lucky. I think it's a pretty good group we have put together."

Pickering is particularly appreciative that Malaxos was happy to continue in 2018 as assistant coach.

As one of WA football's all-time greats following his remarkable playing career at Claremont, Hawthorn, West Coast and East Fremantle, and then his AFL assistant coaching roles at Sydney and Fremantle, and his coaching stints with the Sharks, he brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience.

Pickering is already tapping into that resource all the time and certainly will continue to do so as 2018 rolls on.

"I ask Stav questions every single night about what he did in similar situations, what he would do with this guy and I feel so lucky that he wanted to stick around and go around again with a new coach that he didn’t really know," Pickering said.

"I did a bit of research on him before I rang him and if you look at his CV, it's unbelievable. He played close to 400 games of senior footy and has spent a long time in the AFL with Sydney and Fremantle.

"He then coached in the WAFL in his own right and went to one grand final and should have made another, and even won a colts premiership. He has been a huge sounding board for me nightly at training absolutely."

By Chris Pike.