Fixing First Quarters The Focus At Swan Districts

Thursday, July 12, 2018 - 4:08 PM by Chris Pike

SWAN Districts coach Adam Pickering has remained upbeat despite the current four-game losing streak and he is confident of getting back to the winner's list if they can tidy up their starts against East Perth on Saturday.

Pickering was appointed coach of Swan Districts for 2018 in his first job as a senior coach replacing Greg Harding who had taken over from Brian Dawson following the 2010 premiership triumph.

The start to his senior coaching career couldn’t have been much better with Swans winning the first two games of 2018 before Subiaco saw them came back to earth with a thud.

But by the end of Round 9 after a five-goal win against Perth having earlier been 40 points down, the black-and-whites were sitting pretty with a 5-3 record.

They have lost four straight games since then to Claremont, Subiaco, Peel Thunder and Perth but remarkably remain in fourth position on the WAFL ladder heading into this Saturday's clash with East Perth at Steel Blue Oval.

That's a Royals team who has lost six matches in-a-row as well since entering the State game break with a 4-1 record. Since then they have lost to South Fremantle, Swan Districts, West Perth, Subiaco, Claremont and South Fremantle prior to last week's bye.

That sets the stage for a crucial game this Saturday with the winner to be in a good position to end up playing finals while it will be a challenging last six weeks for the loser.

Pickering is looking forward to seeing how his Swan Districts team comes out with so much at stake.

"I said to the guys after the game on Saturday coming off a disappointing loss that the sun will come up tomorrow and we're still fourth, and they couldn’t believe it," Pickering said.

"We can't beat ourselves up and get in the doldrums and start kicking the dirt, because we are still fourth and we're playing a team this week who is fighting for one of those fourth or fifth spots as well.

"It's a mini-final, an elimination final almost against East Perth so we have to pick ourselves up and have a good win."

It has been no coincidence that Swan Districts' four-game losing slide has gone hand in hand with the absence of injured ruckman Nathan Blakely who went down with an ankle injury in Round 10 against Claremont.

The flow-on effects of his absence have been felt right across the board for Swans but Pickering is looking forward to having him back on Saturday against the Royals.

"It's very important to get him back. He was super for us before he got injured and we've tried some different things since he's been out, and it hasn’t worked the way we'd like it to," he said.

"I'm not saying he's the reason we're losing the games, but he is a really important cog in our team because he competes so hard and last time against East Perth he had 28 disposals in the wet and a heap of clearances. He's a very important cog in our footy club.

"Doc has trained really well this week, and last week really, and he holds it together for us structurally forward of the ball when he's playing. Gault and Noble, throw in Rogers, Banfield, Wilson, Riggio or Palmer, and it's pretty dangerous and hard to match up on.

"But when you take a Gault out of there, the flow on effect is that the best defender then goes to Noble and it all dribbles down. It actually does help our structure a lot having Doc back in."

Looking back on last Saturday's four-goal loss to Perth also at Steel Blue Oval, Pickering was again left lamenting another slow start by Swan Districts where unlike the first two times against the Demons in 2018, they couldn’t steady and up running over the top for victories.

"We felt like stat-wise and some of our KPI's were OK but we couldn’t penetrate inside-50 to put the repeat score on the board, it was more going goal for goal after quarter-time," Pickering said.

"It was disappointing and we had another slow start, and we've had that over the last month where our first quarters have been pretty poor.

"After quarter-time, we haven’t been too bad and in the games against Claremont, Peel and Perth on the weekend, if you take away the first quarters we are around the mark. It's something that we need to try and tweak and try to get the boys to wake up a bit earlier."

First quarters now are an on-going concern for Swans. They have been outscored over the season by 68 points by their opposition to be the second worst starting team in the league behind only the bottom placed East Fremantle.

After that, Swans haven’t been too bad over the season as the fifth best second quarter team and ranked fourth in third terms while third worst in last quarters behind just East Fremantle and Claremont.

But Pickering remains confident should Swans iron out their first quarter problems that things can quickly come together again especially with them still sitting in fourth position despite being on the four-game losing slide.

"Take out the first quarters and we've actually been competitive in three of the four games. It is a tough period of the year no matter how well or bad you are going, it's cold, it's dark and the grounds are heavy," he said.

"If you are losing it can be pretty dark but it can also show your true colours and you can really grow in this period. Even though we've had four losses, it could be the making of us in some ways.

"If we can come out of this in a positive frame and put some score on the board this week and have a good win, it might just be the making of something we really did need."

There will be no resting on any laurels about the first quarters at Swan Districts, though, and Pickering will be trying some different things and asking his players to do the same in the pre-game to try to make a better start against East Perth on Saturday.

"We will definitely try to tweak something a little bit different this week," Pickering said.

"We've also flagged it with the boys over the last three or four weeks to try and get them to do something individually as well so they know they have to be ready to go at 2.15.

"We could also ask the commission to start our games at 2.45 and we might be in with a chance. But in all seriousness, it's a concern that we're not sharp early and we've flagged it, and will try something different this week to see if it works."