THERE is a new coach at Subiaco and some premiership stars have moved on, but as Beau Wardman steps into the hot seat he and everyone at the Lions are not ready to expect any sort of drop off from the WAFL benchmark.
Subiaco had a remarkably dominant 2018 season with the Lions going through the league season undefeated on the way to a premiership on the back of the heartbreak of minor premiership seasons the two years before but losing the Grand Finals to Peel Thunder.
Not only that, but Subiaco won premierships in the reserves and colts to make their own piece of WAFL history in remarkable fashion.
Wardman coached that Subiaco colts team to the premiership and now he steps up to be league coach in 2019 following the departure of Jarrad Schofield who has taken up an assistant coaching role in the AFL with Port Adelaide.
Schofield isn’t the only key part of that Subiaco premiership success and run of playing in five successive Grand Finals and winning flags in 2014, 2015 and 2018 with Zac Clarke and Chris Phelan moving on, and Brad Stevenson, Adam Cockie and Scott Hancock retiring.
But the Lions haven’t rested on their laurels of just banking on the talent stepping up from the colts and reserves teams that also won premierships in 2018, with the recruitment of Harry Marsh following his stint in the AFL with the Sydney Swans.
While acknowledging those players departing will be tough to replace, Wardman comes into the new season confident in the group he will have at his disposal in his first season as league coach.
"To lose guys of that ilk, not only because of their on-field performance but their leadership and quality off the field is difficult to replace but we understand that's the WAFL competition," Wardman said on 91.3 SportFM.
"We were fortunate enough to get Harry Marsh across from Sydney with his experience in the AFL system. Then we've got a couple of guys who have been at the club previously like Joel Latham who is coming off a 12-month knee injury and he'll be a welcome return.
"Then we have the guys who have been toiling away in the reserves like Jack Beverly who has had a really strong pre-season. Jack Mayo and Liam Hickmott will come up from the colts and we think they have the potential to push up into the league side at certain stages of the season."
Subiaco will also have a new captain in 2018 with Leigh Kitchin replacing Kyal Horsley.
Wardman is glad not only to be able to give the responsibility of captaincy to Kitchin given the remarkable impact he has had in 85 games with Subiaco which has included four Grand Final appearances, two premierships, a fairest and best award and four state appearances.
Not only is the new coach happy with his new captain, but he's delighted to still have Horsley playing and to offer his leadership to the next generation coming through.
"We are fortunate where we could have had two or three guys put their hand up to be captain, but Leigh was the unanimous choice with the playing group and also the coaching staff," he said.
"I think he'll do an outstanding job in that capacity. Kyal is maintaining a leadership role but working with some of our younger and developing players in terms of their goal setting and leadership.
"That's hopefully with eye to helping us have that sustained success over a long period of time as a result of that, and Kyal's character on and off the field is one of the highest so to use him in that capacity will be great for our players and club."
Given Subiaco is coming off its historic season of winning the league, reserves and colts premierships there's obviously no need for Wardman to look to make mass changes as he comes in to take over as senior coach.
But naturally there will be some changes with a new coach and some changes to the playing group and he's looking forward to seeing how it can all come together in 2019.
"There will certainly be some differences and we've spoken with the senior leadership group and other coaches about what opportunities are there," Wardman said.
"Obviously the framework for success, not only from a playing point of view but the off-field culture that has been built over a number of years, will continue.
"It was testament last year with the total club success that we were able to build a whole club model that would enable us to be in a position for some success as a whole football club.
"We are keen to try to continue that but there will be some differences in terms of how we go about it. My communication style might be a little different than Jarrad's and hopefully the players will embrace that throughout the year."
Clancy Wheeler did play in the premiership of 2018 but the 145-game veteran never really got going due to a late start with injury. He is one player Wardman is looking for big things from in 2019 along with last year's leading goalkicker Ben Sokol and the versatile Greg Clark.
"Clancy's looking really refreshed and I think is keen for this year where he can play a role up forward. Ben Sokol has had a real standout pre-season and his running has improved significantly, and we've modified his role slightly and hopefully we'll reap the rewards of that throughout the year," he said.
"Greg Clark played a little bit down back last year and we're looking to develop him into a few different roles, and we think he's come on in leaps and bounds not only in his performance but his leadership as part of the group.
"Those guys will be really strong and Ben Newton has been playing on the wing, and I'm looking forward to him hopefully having a really big start to the season."
Because he had already been at Subiaco as colts coach and built a strong reputation already as one of the best young coaches in the state having made the move from umpiring, Wardman isn’t quite as daunted stepping into the senior coaching role as he otherwise might be.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t still some nerves there, but he has faith in the playing group and staff around him that they can continue to be a force.
"I've been at the club for a couple of years which has been really good just to get that exposure to what it's all about, and then the playing list and staff around make it that much easier," Wardman said.
"It's certainly a very driven playing group, the coaches are professional and the support around us all is unquestionable.
"That's made it a little easier but it certainly is daunting coming in and trying to replicate outside noise of last year, but we recognise that this is a new season with new challenges. The whole competition is going to have a whole new look to it so we're under no illusions as to what expect."