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New Swans coach buoyed by group at his disposal in 2018Wednesday, March 7, 2018 - 5:24 PM - by Chris Pike

NEW Swan Districts coach Adam Pickering was excited by the group he inherited and saw coming through when appointed to take over for the 2018 WAFL season and beyond and his buoyancy has only grown since arriving at Steel Blue Oval.

Pickering has been appointed as the new coach of Swan Districts for 2018 after Greg Harding decided to step aside having been at the helm since he replaced Brian Dawson following the 2010 premiership triumph.

Swans returned to finals action in 2017 and beat West Perth in the elimination final before falling short in the first semi-final against South Fremantle. 

But that was a stark improvement on the wooden spoon season of 2016 and that gave Pickering plenty of positivity when he put his hand up for his first senior coaching role.

Having done a strong apprenticeship at both East Perth and Perth coaching at reserves and colts level on the back of a 110-game WAFL playing career following time in the AFL with Carlton and Richmond, Pickering saw the job at Swan Districts as the ideal fit for him.

As a result, he was excited when chosen late last year to take over the helm and a lot of the reason for that was the core group of players remaining from last year and the young group coming up from the colts that he has been coaching against the last couple of years when he was at East Perth.

While Swan Districts has lost some experience and quality in the form of Tallan Ames, Ryan Crowley, Ricky Cary and Jamie Bennell from last year's finals team, Pickering feels it's the core group that will be key.

With the likes of Tony Notte, David Ellard, Matt Riggio, Adam Faulkner, Corey Gault, Todd Banfield, Alex Howard, Kirk Ugle and Jarrad Blight leading the way, it's a good core group for Pickering to inherit topped up by the recruitment of hard-running pair Rhys Palmer and Steven Payne.

"When I looked at the squad last year I saw a lot of excitement. There was a few retirements from those top tier guys but really Xavier (Ellis) didn't play many games and Amesy and Crowley did battle injuries a bit," Pickering said.

"Yes we lost those names but they might not have been influencing games as much as everyone was saying, and I looked at the squad overall and thought that yes it was young, but it had a great core group of WAFL footballers. 

"Then knowing the history of the footy club since I've been in Perth and the talent that comes through every year from the colts program, they hardly ever miss out on competing for the flag. 

"I looked at that and thought that if we can harness that talent and keep them engaged, we might find a few more 150 or 200-game players like Tony Notte. I was excited by what I saw in the list for sure."

Steel Blue Oval might not have necessarily been a happy venue for Pickering during his playing career with East Perth and it was actually where he played the last game of his career when Swans beat the Royals in the 2010 preliminary final.

Going to a new club always creates some nerves too especially when you are going to be a senior coach for the first time but Pickering has fitted in quickly at Bassendean.

"It's been good and really enjoyable so far, but challenging as well. Coming to a new club, learning new names and then everyone looking to you as the senior coach has been challenging but really enjoyable at the same time," he said.

"It was really exciting coming in for that first night of pre-season to be honest. I was nervous and you get the butterflies, but this is something I've always wanted to do so I was really excited to get my hands dirty and get stuck in."

On top of the core group of experienced players Pickering will have to work with in 2018 at Swan Districts which will also include a fully fit Matt Rogers who missed the second half of 2017 through injury, he is also excited by a young emerging group coming through.

That includes the likes of Taryce Stewart, Tobe Watson, Jack Watson, Jesse Turner and Levi Ridley who have had a taste of league football, and the next batch coming through too.

"There's a real, good core nucleus of about 10 to 12 bona fide league players, and there might even be more," Pickering said.

"Then we have some really exciting kids coming through who are in that 18 to 21-year-old age group who are really exciting like both Watson boys, Noble, Stewart, Jesse Turner and even Power who hasn’t played league footy yet. 

"Levi Ridley has really had a good summer too and he's dedicated himself. If we can find another 10 per cent in natural growth from guys like that which I've seen already in them, then they will be important to support that top dozen or so players we have with Rhys added as well. 

"There might be some ups and downs with youth as there always is, but the talent we see here daily is pretty exciting."

The signing of Palmer was a significant boost for Swan Districts too as the 28-year-old brings with him 123 games of AFL experience across Fremantle, Greater Western Sydney and Carlton.

Pickering couldn’t be happier with his addition and is looking forward to what he can provide and off the field for Swans.

"Rhys has been really good, not just with the way he trains after being in the system for 10 years and playing 120 games so you expect his training standards to be right up there and that's showing already," he said.

"But it's not just that. His voice around the boys has been great and he is grabbing young boys to do extra on off nights and pre-training so he has been really positive around the group. 

"He is a naturally really positive guy and he feels good about what he sees here with our program and playing group. I think he will have a big influence for us not just on the field, but off it too. 

"His body is in pretty good shape and I don’t think he had any injuries last year, and he still covers the ground really well even after only being with us for a few weeks now. 

"He is an elite runner when he's up and going but like anyone coming out of the AFL system, the challenge is the mental side of it and keeping yourself motivated. 

"But when you've been in the system for 10 years and played 120 games, you are pretty strong mentally and hopefully he sticks around for a while."

Pickering is also happy with the coaching staff he has assembled keeping Steve Malaxos on board while also bringing in Paul Sanzone from West Perth and Mitch Burgess with him from East Perth.

"We've brought Paul Sanzone across from West Perth and I've been coaching against him for seven years basically through the reserves and colts. There's that old East Perth-West Perth rivalry obviously and he's just about the only West Perth person I've met who was decent," Pickering said.

"So he has come on board and he'll do our midfield. And Mitch Burgess who was an assistant with me in the colts at East Perth the last couple of years has come across and he's going to look after our forwards. 

"Daniel Wulf will also take over as our reserves coach. I look at that and I look at the experience I have around me with Stav and Paul especially, and Phil as our footy manager and I feel pretty lucky. I think it's a pretty good group we have put together."