- On where Fremantle's improvement comes from. *
We have had the same minutes of pre-season training but a larger percentage of the group have done it and we have done it at a higher quality and a higher speed. The playing list know how we play, so we are not starting from square one. We expect our developing players to improve. We would like to think we can maintain Matthew Pavlich, Aaron Sandilands and Luke McPharlin. The rest of the group can improve.
*On the possibility of Sandilands, Pavlich and McPharlin declining. *
Aaron played 12 games last year. We are really confident in Jon Griffin, Zac Clarke and Jack Hannath if Aaron is not there. Aaron went down in the Richmond game last year and we played some of our best football post that. He came back in and added a bit more. McPharlin is very important, but we have Zac Dawson, Alex Silvagni and Michael Johnson. I have been in scenarios before like at Sydney with no Tony Lockett, no Daryn Cresswell, no Paul Kelly. We identify talent and grow them and give them an opportunity.
*Can Pavlich be replaced? *
He is a top-flight player. But you find a bit about your group. Matthew doesn't play against North Melbourne in round 20 and we kick our highest score for the year, so it shows it can be done without him. One player can't carry the rest and dominate the field because it is so big. It is about weight of numbers and that is our whole philosophy, everyone contributing. You maximise strengths and minimise weaknesses.
*Danyle Pearce's significance. *
He adds to the mix. We identified him as available. He is a beautiful kick, he has speed, he carries the ball and we would like some more speed to complement Stephen Hill, Hayden Ballantyne, those line breakers. Then Josh Simpson comes in. Max Duffy, Hayden Crozier, they are quite quick.
- Does it mean fewer taggers for Hill? *
Yeah, and I think that having Nat Fyfe grow means he will get some more attention. He will have some challenges that Hill has faced for a long time. When they are all up and going, who do you tag? Is it David Mundy, Fyfe, Hill, Michael Barlow, Pearce. The more you can add the better off you are.
*How good a player is David Mundy? *
In 2011 he had injuries, going into 2012 he was injured pre-season. In the second half of the year, he played some pretty good footy. I am pretty keen to see what he can do. It is a bit like Nat. Talk is cheap, let's all get it done.
*Where do you see Zac Clarke's best spot? *
I think he is going to end up a ruckman a long way down the track. He is quite unique, 203cm, he is whippy, but they take a long time to build their bodies. He has put on another five kilograms over summer. He is growing in confidence from his preparation. He and Kepler Bradley are always fighting for a spot when Matthew and Mayney are there. At the minute, he is a forward-ruckman who we think will grow ultimately to a No.1 ruckman.
*You look to be a coach who doesn't play young players just for blooding them - that they have to earn their spot in the team. Is that a fair assessment? *
We played four of our five draftees last year. Lachie Neale played five games last year, Crozier played three or four. It is a bit about where your list is at, but we don't put limits on anyone. I don't have any predisposition to not playing players. Those that do the work and play well - we play them. It is not a competition of who has got the youngest list and who has got the most debutants. The ladder is about four points and stacking them up and getting judged on win-loss. Some clubs have been rebuilding for 30 years. We would envisage having first-year players play this year.
*The betting markets have you sixth. Your thoughts? *
I certainly don't reflect on the betting markets. The bookies are rich and the punters are broke. History says a couple of teams will come in and a couple will drop out, and premiers sometimes surprise people. I take care of what I can. Anxiety comes from speculating about the future. I don't speculate and I try not to have too much anxiety. If you work hard and have a strong game plan and you get them fit and available, it tends to get you through.
*Should you make the eight? *
Our aim is to always make the eight and we don't shy away from that. It would be a disappointment if we didn't, but you can't play in finals and win finals until you have earned the right so our focus is home and away, do the hard work - that is when premierships are won, when you create opportunities for yourself.
*Do you ever compare this Fremantle list to the St Kilda lists you coached that played in preliminary and grand finals? *
Not particularly, different personalities and different capabilities. There is a different mix and we play differently. There are obviously some foundations, but there are distinct differences. This group is yet to prove that they can get to the levels that that group went to, but for us there is real opportunity.
*What excites you about the list at the moment? *
After being immersed for 15 or 16 months, now it is more than just the list. The whole environment, the whole club, there is an appetite for the work from commercial operations to the football department. I am seeing it on a daily basis. We have capabilities and we have effort to go with our capabilities and we want to build sustained success. That is what excites me. When we got up and about - to hear the Dockers crowd at the MCG in a final - I thought we had a home crowd. They are so passionate and we are really growing. There has been a lot of work done before me. There was a point where we were the oldest club, paying the salary cap to the max and finishing near the bottom, so from there it is a no brainer - you have to give games and blood and that was done. They have taken us out of $4 million of debt and turned it around. We have got Cockburn in the pipeline. There is a bit to go under the bridge there but that is really exciting. I am working as hard as I can to help the list be what they can be. If we continue to stack up consistent finals appearances and create opportunities for ourselves, it will be a great club to be a part of.
*Did the Fremantle you found when you got here surprise you in any way? *
It is not until you get in that you realise there is a disparity in methodologies and ways of doing things. It is not that that makes it wrong. But to align the club behind the scenes in fitness and conditioning, medical and how we go about things and how we play - that was quite disparate. We have aligned ourselves fully and made improvements. That doesn't make it right or wrong, it was just different to my experiences.
- * *Who are the most dangerous teams this year? *
Hawthorn will be smarting and they have added Brian Lake, a key defender. Statistically, they dominated in a lot of areas on grand final day. Collingwood with another year under Nathan (Buckley) to iron out the chinks and get everyone on the same page, Sydney as the reigning premiers aren't going to go away and West Coast are a really strong team. Adelaide too. I think the competition is really even and that goes right down. Essendon, St Kilda, Carlton. Brisbane won 10 games and they are in a position to bounce, so there are a lot of threats. There are those going to get it right in preparation and who win the close games. If you go back to 2010, the Dockers won six games by under 10 points. There is a fine line from disaster, isn't there? A couple of clubs will get in because they win the close ones and others will rue lost opportunities. It is a matter of winning when you are in good form and taking your opportunities in close games.
*Which club experience has most shaped you? *
It was my period at the Sydney Swans. I have worked with some terrific individuals and senior coaches and you take lots of things from different people. In the end you have to do it your own way. My mistake was that I was probably trying to be too like Sydney, but was nimble enough to change quickly enough. Clubs that were really struggling, like Fitzroy, were always looking externally at what other clubs were doing. Sydney was a great experience in believing in what you were doing and not worrying about the others. Back yourself in with everyone on and off the field. It was about respect and trust in the organisation. It wasn't Camelot but it was good in terms of care and interest and systems, processes and accountability."We have capabilities and we have effort to go with our capabilities and we want to build sustained success. That is what excites me."" *Ross Lyon *