EAST Fremantle captain Mark McGough was delighted to get his first victory as skipper against East Perth on Saturday and he's now hoping it kick starts a winning run of form for the Sharks after a tough start to the 2011 season.
In his second year with the Sharks, the former Collingwood and St Kilda midfielder has taken over the captaincy from Kasey Green, but his reign didn’t get off to the ideal start.
He missed the opening two games of the season, a loss to Claremont and win over Perth, with a foot injury and then returned to captain East Fremantle in losses to Subiaco, West Perth and South Fremantle.
That had him starting to feel the pinch as skipper heading into Saturday's game with East Perth, but the 26-year-old was happy by the end of the game with the Sharks going on a run of 10-straight goals to bounce back from a 26-point deficit midway through the third quarter to win by 32 points.
McGough is tremendously honoured to be captain of East Fremantle, but doesn’t know if he could have handled being skipper of too many more losing games in a row.
"It's a bit of a monkey off the back. Coming in this was my fifth game as captain and we'd lost the first four, so it's very nice to get over the line finally," McGough said.
"It definitely is a huge honour. The pressure does build up a bit when you are losing games and you feel that, but to being captain is very nice and it's a lot better when you win."
East Fremantle might have been coming off a five-day break from the Anzac Day loss to South Fremantle while East Perth had eight days from Good Friday to Saturday's game, but the Sharks overrun the Royals much to the delight of their skipper.
"They had a lot of players out and some young players in the team that probably meant our little bit more seasoned players were able to finish the game off a little bit better. Especially in the third quarter we came out into the breeze and were able to hold East Perth after they got three quick goals to get out to a 26-point lead," he said.
"We had more players who have been around for a while now and even though we are a young team, we've got quite a bit of experience with it as well. That was crucial because when we were able to start getting on a run we were able to keep that going. Kicking with the breeze in the last quarter certainly helped as well so it was good that I lost the toss in the end."
"We were then able to come back to only be a couple of kicks down by the start of the last, and then the last quarter was terrific. It was a great effort by the boys and hopefully it turns our season around now so we can start climbing up the ladder. They were starting to lose some key players and the age of the sides told in the end.
Fremantle-listed ruckman Jonathon Griffin was dominant for East Fremantle with 19 touches, 48 hit outs and a goal, and he gave great service to McGough, Rory O'Brien, Koby Stevens, Chris Masten and Jamie McNamara in the midfield.
Then with the back-line superb with Jacob Brennan shutting down Kayne Pettifer, Andrew Stephen keeping Mat Seal goalless, Steven Dodd making sure Graham Polak was quiet and Luke Weller holding Josh Smith after three early goals, there was plenty to like from the Sharks' performance.
"He (Griffin) was good and it was obviously handy having both Zach Beeck and Zac Clarke out. I thought Hamish Shepheard did OK in the ruck for them, but Grif was very dominant and that's probably one area we need to work on more to make sure we capitalise on his dominant around the ground and in the centre bounces," he said.
"They were tremendous – Luke Weller, Steven Dodd, Stepho who is probably leading our fairest and best right now, Daniel Chidlow did a great job on (Aaron) Sweet and Tim Houlihan did a good shutdown job on (Craig) Wulff."
Michael Warren returned for the Sharks in his first game of the season on Saturday and offered a strong presence up forward with Griffin holding down the ruck. Ryley Dunn has now also had two games back in the reserves and isn’t far off his first league game of the season.
"It's great to have a big tall target up forward finally. That gives us a bit more direction going forward so it's good to have Micky back," he said.
"Dunny has had a very interrupted pre-season. He had a knee op and has just sort of come back, and with work he has found it hard to train with the group, but hopefully over the next few weeks he can come back in that forward-line for us as well."
East Fremantle now returns to Shark Park this Saturday looking for its first win at home for the season following losses to Claremont, Subiaco and West Perth.
McGough knows that Peel will be a good test despite being winless so far this season and hopes the Sharks come out with the right attitude, and he's sure they will after gaining some confidence from beating the Royals.
"We've got Peel next week and that's another big game for us. We just have to keep building and hopefully develop a winning culture again," McGough said.
"We have set ourselves high standards this year and hopefully this is the turning point for us to start climbing back up the ladder."