Freo past counts for nothing
Freo past counts for nothing

Mark Duffield talks to Fremantle coach Ross Lyon about the coming season.

Are you concerned about Tuesday night?
We don't like losing but we know it doesn't count. There is too much history in the NAB Cup - too many variables, personnel, desire, to read too much into it but watching the tape there is still stuff that I don't like. You learn a lot out of your losses and it is a really sharp reminder that the past counts for nothing. We do know that our preparation of volume, intensity and speed is slightly ahead of where it was last year at the same time. We know we are in a heavy training load, but in saying that we have got one week less from here than we had last year, so it is a challenge. It is an honour to open the season but it puts you under a bit of time pressure. West Coast were terrific. They didn't do anything we didn't expect them to do. I would like to think that our desire and intensity would be a lot greater in round one than we saw the other night.

Does your preparation change because of what you saw on Tuesday?
Not at all, we have got it mapped out. And in the NAB Cup we play a very straight bat. We certainly do things that expose players and put them under more pressure than they would normally be.

Where is Ibbotson at?
He is rehabbing. He has done an enormous amount of running. They have been conservative with him. He is really champing at the bit. I would expect to see him somewhere in football this week but he obviously wouldn't play in round one.

Are you confident Zac Clarke is going to be ready to play in round one?
He has got some work to do. He is rehabbing, starting to move along really quickly now. He is probably looking unlikely from here. It was a real good chance then he had a hiccup for a week, week and a half. In saying that we play round one and we don't play the next week, so there is some flexibility. He is a great athlete, a 10min. 10sec. 3km runner, so his endurance base is a non-issue. It is just trying to get him available. The ruck is the one area where we are probably under some pressure. Aaron (Sandilands) is fit and available and Jack Hannath, and we have got Gumbleton and Taberner but certainly Griffin and Zac Clarke, who were both outstanding in patches last year, are not available, or Kepler Bradley, so we are a bit thinner there.

What do Colin Sylvia and Scott Gumbleton add to the team?
We weren't targeting anyone to revolutionise us, it was just to complement what we already had in place, as Danyle Pearce did. That is really the aim for Colin. He is a midfield/forward and another really big, powerful mid. That is the aim for him. Scott Gumbleton was a bit different. He had five injury-cruelled years at Essendon. He was starved of opportunity. He sought us out and we thought we had an opportunity for him, but for both Colin and Scott you can be here for five minutes or five years depending on how you go about it. We are a place of opportunity and an environment where you can grow. That is where they sit.

How have their pre-seasons been?
Scott has been better than we thought. He has probably only missed one or two sessions with his back. He has had to come to grips with how we train and the intensity we train at and he is slowly doing that. Colin had an extended break unfortunately - it ended up being 12 weeks because they finished up early. He came over, not as fit as we would have liked. He picked it up really quickly, had a couple of little soft-tissue niggles. He is 14th on our list for volume of running. I hear the doomsayers out there. There has been some negativity already. There can only be two or three results. He will either have a great year, a poor year or he will go OK. Those writing the doom stories already will be hoping he fails, but we are setting up Colin to succeed. He is doing the work and he is earning some respect.

From a list management perspective would you be hoping to get more AFL games into Sheridan and Crozier this year?
At the end of the day I don't pick the team, players pick the team. Sutcliffe forced his way in as a second-year player last year, Sheridan forced his way in and played a final and was squeezed out, Lachie Neale forced his way in on form, so we don't gift games. Sometimes you could mistakenly think it was a competition for the youngest list and the least games played but the competition is to win the premiership. They are going into their third years. Our level of expectation is that they are now conditioned to play like seasoned AFL players more and deliver and pick themselves. It is exciting for us because it puts pressure on players who have seen themselves in the best 18 to 22.

Morabito - what's the plan?
I do feel uncomfortable talking about Anthony. We know he is progressing really well and Anthony, at the right time will talk to that. He is in full training. All it is now is a conditioning aspect which is out of my control. He has probably got to get a month or so of full training, every minute of every session and then we will allow him to play. He has stayed the course. It is a great story of courage and perseverance to take the risk again. He has had his shoulder to that big wheel for a long period of time, but the wheel is starting to turn for him now. He is an exciting athlete on our list, a 190cm, 97kg beast. I think ultimately he will probably be more of a key position player.

Did you review the grand final like a normal game?
Yeah of course I did. We prepare every week the same. From round one to wherever we finish and last year it happened to be the grand final, I call it round 26, our preparation does not deviate. If it did that would mean we have taken short cuts. You review it slightly differently because there is a fair bit of emotion that has gone into it. There is a difference between winning and succeeding. Succeeding is, have you done everything you could do to give yourself the best chance to perform? We felt we did that. We just clearly know we need to get better.

Is conversion an area where you need to be better?
I think that is the headline number but when the game was up for grabs at three-quarter time in the first 10 minutes of the last quarter, Hawthorn were super and we weren't.

You have had four teams in grand finals who haven't managed to kick 10 goals. Your thoughts?
I think you can look at that, the facts are the facts, but in grand finals there is more contested ball. We had 56 entries at St Kilda in 2009 and six more shots. If you miss them from the goal square it is going to be hard. There have been two where there has been hail and sleet in the morning before the game, wet and windy. The facts are the facts. What is the average score in a grand final, just to give us some relativity?

Was conversion an issue for you in other games as well as the grand final, in the finals and in the draw against Sydney?
If you want to open that up, we were the second most accurate team throughout the year, but in that game we were the least accurate out of 287 games for the year so, go figure.

You said you want to create two more goals per game this year. Is that on average?
On average. We had some challenges last year and I think what skewed it was that in some of our losses we were really low - the St Kilda game in the last game, Geelong down there. When we win we average 105 points. I think we were ninth or 10th in scoring but we were 11 points off top-four average.

Pavlich, McPharlin and Sandilands. Two had interruptions going into last year. Are you optimistic you will get more out of them this year even though they are a year older?
I am very optimistic based on their preparation. They have all done full pre-seasons, we have had to tap them out to manage them. Luke McPharlin has done a PB, Aaron has done a PB and Matthew is as lean and light and done as much running as really in my first year here when he played some special football. They are in really good shape. Otherwise if they weren't we wouldn't have sat them on the bench in the first half the other night. We are confident.

Is the depth this year the best it has been in your time here?
It is hard to figure out, it depends in what area. I think we are still thin in key positions and we have got a little bit more run. Neale and Sheridan and Sutcliffe in particular will put pressure on players like Clancee Pearce and Garrick Ibbotson to get back into the team based on last year. But we all know there is rehabbing and form and all of those things.

Does the fact that you got to a grand final give you great confidence going in?
Confidence is just a feeling, it is just an emotion. It is nice to have but you don't need it to be successful. Teams don't need to be confident. The only thing that counts is actions. What makes me confident is preparation and I see us preparing really well. It wasn't reflected in the performance the other night but as I sit here and reflect we are doing the work, we are fit, we are lean and we are hungry on the surface. That is where confidence comes from. It is one of the great myths in football. You don't need confidence to be successful. It is nice to have but you don't need it.

You have mentioned greater flexibility. Is it a necessity with an interchange cap?
I think it has been overplayed a bit. It is still 120 - in 2009 we averaged 94 playing press football so 120 is a luxury. We would like to share the workload and have a different look in the front half and the midfield because we have got some capacity to go through there. Michael Walters could be a brilliant midfielder really because he is fit. De Boer is a real bull and could go through there. Fyfe as a forward, Mundy as a forward is exciting, Hill off half-back, forward. You become less of a sitting duck.

The West Australian

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