Turner's all-round Swans game continues to grow

Saturday, August 10, 2019 - 8:35 AM by Chris Pike

FRESH off kicking the winning goal for Swan Districts against the West Coast Eagles, Jesse Turner has enjoyed the chance in 2019 to spend more time as an inside midfielder and to take on more of a leadership role as his all-round game continues to develop.

Turner is one player whose role is becoming of increasing importance at Swan Districts with the black-and-whites still possessing a strong group of senior, experienced players and exciting youngsters, but it's in that middle tier that they are somewhat lacking.

While players like Tony Notte, George Hampson, Matt Riggio, Alex Howard and Steven Payne continue to lead from the front, and youngsters Denzel More, Josh Cipro, Tristen Raynor, Jiah Reidy, Lachlan Riley, Aidan Clarke, Jackson Beck, Callum Garcia, Seb Bright, Dylan Smith, Brayden Hackett and Nathan Ireland are exciting future prospects, Swans' growth must come from players like Turner.

And the 23-year-old is likely having the best and most consistent season of his league career since making his debut back in 2015.

He put together a tremendous 2018 season where he was even named to the WAFL Team of the Year at the end of it having spent most of his time on the wing, but now in 2019 he has graduated to spending more time as an inside midfielder.

He has still spent time on the outside as well to take advantage of his running ability, but the dual roles have resulted in him now averaging 19.9 disposals a game and with him playing a more and more valuable role for the team.

"In the first half of my league career and even last year I was more of an outside player, more of a wingman, because of my ability to run and create. But this year I've tried to become that inside and outside player so I've played more of an inside role and I've really enjoyed that," Turner told 91.3 SportFM.

"I like being around the contest. I would say that at the start of my career I was definitely more a wingman and half-forward, but this year and moving forward I definitely see myself more of an inside mid. I've now developed my body and got my strength up so I can be an inside and outside player, and have that versatility."

Turner has now played 74 WAFL games so aside from Hampson, Riggio, Payne, Notte and Howard, he is the most experienced player each time he steps out onto the field for Swan Districts.

That means not only does he now have to focus on his own performances, but he has to take on a bit of a leadership role to show the way for the players who have played 50, 60 or 70 games fewer than him at league level.

While he is only 23 years of age, that's a role he has embraced.

"I think this year especially with a lot of middle-aged and senior guys having left the club over the last year or two, we've got a younger team than ever before even though we've got that good group of older players with Howie, Notte, Dave Ellard, Riggio and Hampson joining us this year," Turner said.

"But then we don’t have too many players in that middle tier and suddenly we get very young pretty quick. So going into this season, there was a real emphasis for me to improve my leadership and becoming one of the leaders especially around the younger boys.

"So from the pre-season, instead of just worrying about my game and what I need to do, I've tried to help the younger boys work out what takes to play league footy, and to do well at league footy.

"I know that coming into my first pre-season I probably wasn’t even ready to play reserves at the time, but I was able to work myself into being a league player. So I've tried to help the younger boys coming up to show them what it takes as much as I can. 

"That has been good for me this season and it's definitely helped me with my football and I have enjoyed that leadership side of it."

Turner experienced another first last Saturday too when he kicked what turned out to be the winning goal for Swan Districts against the West Coast Eagles at Steel Blue Oval.

He kicked truly at the 21-minute mark to return Swans to the lead and that's where they stayed and some pretty wild celebrations ensued, which you can certainly understand considering they were on the verge of snapping a seven-game losing run.

"That was the first one. I've had plenty of practice in the backyard where I kicked goals to win games, but never the real thing until Saturday," he said. 

"Fortunately enough Hackett gave me that one with a few minutes to go and I was lucky enough to kick it. I probably over celebrated a bit as a few of the boys have told me but I was obviously pretty happy with it at the time."

As for coach Adam Pickering who is nearing the end of his second season in charge of Swan Districts, Turner couldn’t be more impressed with his whole approach and certainly hopes the club backs him in for the long haul.

"It obviously has been tough for Pickers. Last season we started well and then had a bad second half of the year, then at the start of the year we lost a lot of close games early on and then weren’t playing all that great for a while," Turner said.

"But Pickers has remained really positive and I think for a young team that's really important. confidence is a big thing in footy and with his positivity and staying upbeat has kept the young boys confident in their own ability, and has led us to still believe we can win games of footy. 

"He gets around the boys a lot and win or lose, he's the same every day which definitely helps a lot around the club."