In Their Words – Brandon Erceg Round 13

Friday, July 5, 2019 - 2:49 PM by Brandon Erceg

LAST time I wrote for this column, the weather was nice, the energy in the group was high after only losing due to missing a kick after the siren against a strong South Fremantle side, I was still a chance of playing some footy this year and the season was still very much promising in terms of potentially playing finals. 

Eight more losses and only two wins later, with winter well and truly kicking in, and some might say it has been a season to forget. But as they often say in basketball, when you take a deeper look into the box score, it shouldn’t be viewed as all doom and gloom.

Of our nine losses, two have come by under 10 points, two by a goal or less including a missed shot after the siren, a 14-point loss to East Freo after only being two points down at three quarter-time, and being overrun by Claremont after only being one point down at three quarter-time. It might sound like I’m making excuses or trying to justify our losses, but I’m not; as a club we need to get better and find a way to win more of those games than we lose when the opportunity presents. 

But it does reflect the fact we are not far off at all. If we were on the right end of some of those close games, we could be sitting with a win-loss record along the lines of 7-4 or 6-5. Footy, like many sports, can be a fickle game, with a number of factors playing a hand in things going your way or not going your way, including luck and also including the maturity amongst a playing group to close out games within their reach.

Which is a big area I believe we can develop, and why fans should not lose hope moving forward. We do have a core group of senior players, such as Nottey, Gaulty, Howie, George (who has been great in his first year at the club), Payney, Riggs and Davey. But we also have some young players, who with time put into their bodies and experience at the level will be sharper and ready to seize opportunities when they present. 

Blokes who have played league this year, such as Jiah Reidy, Jack O’Sullivan, Paddy Italiano, Nathan Ireland, Jordan Bill, Lachie Riley, Graydon Wilson, Denzel More and Tristen Raynor. Not to mention those plying their trade in the twos – Callum Garcia, Mitchell Bain, Aidan Clarke, Dylan Smith, just to name a few. All very talented players with plenty of potential at this club moving forward. The hunger is definitely there.

The last two weeks appear to have shown that the previous close losses have started to take their toll; with West Perth and then Peel being too good for us on the day. But the group remains positive, the boys in good spirits during the week at training. And perhaps the group is feeling the pinch a little, as like every club we have had injuries. Josh Cipro went down a few weeks ago after a promising season to date, with his power and speed playing an important role in our midfield.

Warrick Wilson has missed the last couple of weeks, in my eyes the best kick at our footy club and a league regular for a long time now. Davey Ellard, one of our captains and someone who lifts the rest of the team out on the field, has only managed a few games as he works through his own injury battle this season. A number of players have also come off injury-interrupted pre-seasons. 

We have also had a group of players depart the club following the start of the season. I love all the boys who have left, having good relationships with them, and WAFL footy is a tough commitment when also needing to work or study full time, but it is a shame to see them leave prior to season’s end after doing the hard yards in pre-season and being there for season launch in Round 1. 

This has also had an impact, both on the depth at the club and pressure on spots for those boys currently playing in the league side. It has also meant some chopping and changing for the coaches which also makes things tougher. I hope they’re all back at some stage for the black ducks, as they were either on the cusp of or playing league footy, and all contributed off-field as well as on-field.

It feels strange writing for this column, as I haven’t set foot on an oval as a player and won’t this season. Instead I have been helping out with the forwards in the reserves, which has been great, with a young group developing as the season goes on, with a very real chance to be playing finals at season’s end.

Although not technically a player for this season, and not spending as much time with the playing group as I would if training and playing, being involved from a coaching perspective has allowed me to see a different side of things. I can see firsthand the passion and the care Pickers, Burgo and the coaching group have for this group of players and this club. The amount of energy Pickers, and also in working more closely with Burgo, would expend during the week and on Saturday’s purely through thinking about games and the club would allow anyone to see just how much they want on-field success and progression for the club, to match the off-field strides we have seen this season with our community programs and match day festivities. Pickers cares immensely for the players, which is reflected both when he puts an arm around them when required, which to me appears to be often, along with having a hard edge with players when required.

Having to watch from the sidelines this year has been a struggle. I missed the first half of last season, but that was due to surgery, and knowing there was a strong chance I would be back halfway through the season, which I was, playing the back half of the year. This season knowing I won’t be able to play and be out there trying to help the boys, living the good times and also the struggle with them, has been hard to take at times.

The silver lining is that I have been able to sit back and look at things from a broader perspective, which has driven my own hunger for this club to have success. It has allowed me to ponder and think about new ways I can help the club move forward, as sometimes we get caught up in individual on-field performance being the only way we can influence team success.

This doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about playing though, and I can’t wait to hopefully have the opportunity to pull the jumper on again next season, and look forward with confidence to the success to come.