Pickering looks to build on last season's lessons

Friday, March 8, 2019 - 5:43 PM by Chris Pike

SWAN Districts coach Adam Pickering learned plenty in his first season as league coach in 2018 and is looking forward to backing in the youth at Swans further in 2019 to try and spark a rise up the ladder.

Pickering took over as senior coach at Swan Districts in 2018 having done an impressive apprenticeship in roles as assistant coach, reserves coach and colts coach at East Perth and Perth following his AFL and WAFL playing career with the Royals and Carlton.

He arrived with impressive credentials and his tenure couldn’t have got off to a better start with Swan Districts winning their first two games of the season. Even by Round 9 the black-and-whites were in a good spot at 5-3. 

Things didn’t go quite to plan from there with Swans only winning one more game in the run home.

But the unexpected and sudden retirement of Todd Banfield, season-ending injury to Jarrad Blight, the departure of Matthew Rogers and a host of other circumstances that were out of his control along the way certainly didn’t help his cause.

Looking back, Pickering sees it as a great learning curve in what was his first season as the senior coach and he looks to take a lot of those lessons into 2019 to try and improve on the results.

"It was a really good learning experience for myself and for our group as well to learn about me as a coach and us as a whole," Pickering said. 

"I did learn that it's not an easy competition and if you slacken off or things don’t go your way for a little bit, it can really bite you. 

"That's something that we've tried to instil in the guys over the summer that if you drop off a little bit or aren’t ready to go when it's your turn to go into league footy that it will hurt the footy club.

"Getting everyone on board everyone working toward the same common goal whether you are first year out of colts or a 220-game dual Swan Medallist like Tony Notte has been the biggest priority for us."

Looking at the playing stocks at Swans for 2019 and while there is some experience gone in the form of Kirk Ugle, Banfield, Blight and Rogers on the back of the likes of Tallan Ames, Ricky Cary, Ryan Crowley and Jamie Bennell leaving at the end of 2017, there is still a good core group.

Swans still have plenty of quality and experience in the form of Alex Howard, Matt Riggio, Tony Notte, Rhys Palmer, Steven Payne, Corey Gault, Nathan Blakely and David Ellard who have been topped up with the recruitment of dual fairest and best winner, and premiership player George Hampson.

Josh Simpson is also another new arrival willing to give playing in the WAFL another crack while Jesse Glass-McCasker is back from his time in the AFL system.

That provides Pickering with a good core group to work with, but he knows beneath those players is a decidedly young group and he is looking to ensure developing young players is what Swan Districts continues to be all about.

"I think we'll be OK. We are going to be pretty young and we are sticking down our mantra of building from within that we started last year as a coaching group, board and footy club as a whole decided on," Pickering said. 

"But with the reasonable success of the reserves playing finals and the colts making the Grand Final, we've got a lot of talent coming through again who we'll see play league footy this year. 

"We are going to be young, but what I can see is that the boys are very fit at the moment and they've been training very hard. 

"They've had a really good strength program as well so those young guys coming through have put on a bit of size and strength. We'll try to fast track their development to league footy and so far we seem to be working pretty well towards that goal."

Pickering is realistic to know that Swan Districts' depth of league footballers right now to call upon might not be as deep as some of the stronger clubs, but he is confident that will only continue to build over time as the young players find their feet and continue to grow and mature.

"The challenge for us will be our depth. We've acquired a couple of guys from a few years ago who have come back and are a little bit more senior in Tony Stephens and Leigh Kohlmann," he said.

"They've been playing country and amateurs footy but have been in the program before so they know what it's all about.

"That will help us but the challenge will be through the middle of the year if we get a few injuries if we can fast track enough of these young guys coming through to keep us competitive. That's my job as a coach and our job as a coaching staff to really get them up to speed. Hopefully we'll do that but we will soon find out."

One thing that Pickering and the coaching staff at Swan Districts have been mindful of is not running the playing group into the dirt and wearing them out before the season even starts given the home and away season won't begin until Saturday April 6 against South Fremantle.

"We have been discussing as a coaching group and football department how do we keep getting the work in without making it boring and monotonous, and keeping the guys fresh and eager to keep improving," Pickering said. 

"It's a challenge but it does give us extra time to keep working on our game plan, fitness, strength and everything. We've done a couple of different things like going to the beach for a few sessions, we've gone out to Guildford Grammar to use their facilities a few times and I think we're doing OK to keep it fresh for the guys at the moment."