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Finals appearance Swans have built towards

Friday, September 10, 2021 - 11:09 AM

HE was no stranger to finals during his playing career and to the beginning of his coaching journey, and while a first final as senior coach has taken longer than he might have hoped, Adam Pickering is confident Swan Districts can grasp this chance.

Pickering arrived as a star recruit to East Perth back in 2004 on the back of time spent in the AFL with both Richmond and Carlton where he did play seven matches at the top level with the Blues.

He would go on to play 111 games in a terrific career at East Perth that ironically ended with a loss for the Royals in the 2010 preliminary final at Steel Blue Oval against Swan Districts.

Two of those 111 games for Pickering were finals matches at East Perth both coming in his final season with a win over East Fremantle and then the loss to Swans before he quickly moved into coaching upon retirement.

Pickering went on to coach the East Perth reserves for two years, Perth's reserves for another two and then the Royals colts for the last two seasons before he was appointed senior coach at Swan Districts for the 2018 WAFL season.

He reached three preliminary finals and a Grand Final in those six seasons coaching his own teams too so finals are nothing new to him, but he's glad to be there with Swan Districts at league level.

There have been some tough moments building to this moment throughout the first three years of Pickering's tenure as coach winning just 13 of 41 matches, but he was confident they were slowly building towards something that has proven the case in 2021.

Pickering has done a good job to build up a strong defensive set up at Swan Districts with Tony Notte and Alex Howard still at the heart of it, but Brandon Erceg, Jackson Beck and Anthony Stephens are now coming up big time and the addition of Chris Jones has proven an outstanding recruit.

While Corey Gault's availability for the finals remains in doubt robbing Swans of some flexibility with the big men, he remains one of the best ruckmen in the competition but Matthew Germs has proven an adequate replacement to help give an improving midfield group a good look at it.

Recruits Sam Fisher and Frank Anderson are in their second seasons with Swans and are among the best on-ballers in the WAFL while Josh Cipro, Jesse Turner and Lachlan Riley are all in the best form of their careers too.

The big question over Swan Districts during Pickering's four years in charge and even well before that with the black-and-whites has been their ability to kick a winning score.

Even again this season they are only ranked seventh in attack at 73.7 points a game but Jesse Palmer has kicked 31 goals and Brayden Noble 23 to be solid targets while Tom Edwards, Aidan Clarke and Warrick Wilson are lively.

The X-factor for Swans is actually how Pickering elects to use veterans Matt Riggio and Lewis Jetta. They both still have enough left in their tanks to play a variety of roles and to be match winners on their day with Riggio a WAFL premiership player while Jetta has won two AFL premierships.

Sunday will be the first time Swan Districts has played a final since 2017 where they did beat West Perth in an elimination final before losing in a first semi-final a week later to South Fremantle.

Pickering will be hoping history repeats this Sunday when Swans take on the Falcons once more in an elimination final at Joondalup's Provident Financial Oval, and he's feeling good about their preparation.

"We are feeling pretty good," Pickering said.

"We feel that if we bring our best we'll be pretty competitive but we are under no illusions after they've beaten us twice during the year that are pretty tough to beat up at Joondalup.

"We are going to have to be at our best but if we are we are pretty confident of getting the job done."

Swan Districts has lost its last four matches against West Perth while scoring an average of just 48.3 points in those four matches.

So scoring against West Perth is something Swan Districts need to do better come Sunday afternoon at Joondalup but Pickering is confident they can find a way.

"Usually what you find against the top teams in the comp is that they defend really well, they close down your space quickly and put really good pressure on. We haven’t been great at dealing with that against West Perth but that's something we need to address," Pickering said.

"In that first game up at Joondalup that we played them this year we were actually six goals to one up halfway through the third quarter and got beaten late. We know we can compete with them, it's just a matter of doing it for four quarters and making sure we have the mind on our job on the day."

Swan Districts put in a solid effort last Saturday to close the home and away season despite losing to Claremont by 22 points.

With key players Sam Fisher, Frank Anderson, Alex Howard and Lewis Jetta all not playing who should be right to come straight back in for the finals, Pickering hopes that every member of the squad took heart from the spirited performance as well.

"I liked our effort and our intensity and intent at the contest, I thought it was first class. It was a good reminder to our boys that it doesn’t matter who you roll out, if you can compete for two hours and have a real dip then you can be in the game against anyone," Pickering said.

"I think we ended up with five more inside 50s, one the clearances against a really strong Claremont midfield and that's what I really liked. It was probably just our polish that let us down a little bit going forward that it meant we weren’t able to put our inside 50s on the scoreboard.

"It was a good reminder for the guys that come back in this week that it doesn’t matter how much polish or skill or talent you have, but if you are able to compete and if you can do that you'll be right in the game against whoever."