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Swan Districts gear up for WAFL finals assault

Thursday, March 14, 2024 - 3:29 PM

Swan Districts are gearing up to be back in the WAFL finals in 2024 and coach Andrew Pruyn likes the mix of recruits, experienced players, those in their prime and an emerging group that he will have to work with.

While there has again been significant change at Swan Districts on the playing front over the summer, Pruyn likes the core group that will be back in 2024 topped off with some impressive recruits.

Pruyn is now glad to have the work over pre-season done, had the hard work fitness wise by the players behind them and they can focus on gearing up for Round 1 against the West Coast Eagles.

"It's sort of a bit of a funny one where you do pre-season and it's not really footy, you're halfway between a track and field athlete program and trying to incorporate a bit of footy," Pruyn said.

"But now that you get closer to the season, you can actually really knuckle down and do a lot of footy focused drills and start playing games, which is what we're all about. It's a nice change."

There has been some significant changes to the playing squad over the off-season for Swan Districts too including the departures of Tobe Watson, Ryan Kemp, Jesse Palmer, Lawson Humphries, Chris Jones and Sam Fisher.

However, Pruyn is excited by some of the additions to Swan Districts for 2024 with the inclusions highlighted by Nik Rokahr and Jye Chalcraft who are fresh off winning fairest and best awards at their respective SANFL and VFL clubs in 2023.

There's also the additions of Tom Panuccio, Mitch Roche, Leigh Kohlmann, Bryce Watson, Jake Pasini and Sydney Stack.

"With a lot of guys that we've lost, a lot of them have returned home and they are recruits who have done their time and moved on after four or five years back to their home states," he said.

"But we've brought in Nik and Jye who are two really quality young men, and really good inside midfielders that we are hoping we'll see the best of this year along with a number of other guys who will get some opportunities to show what they are capable of."

Now that the preparations are being finalised for the opening of the season, Pruyn has been happy to come through unscathed on the health front and with the way the work has gone over summer.

With the natural depth there with the Reserves premiership players and emerging Colts group, and Pruyn is feeling good coming into the season.

"We're actually in really good shape, we haven’t got anyone with long-term injuries and everyone's tracking really nicely to be available for Round 1," Pruyn said.

"Our depth is pretty good. Obviously our Reserves managed to win the premiership last year so we've got really good stocks through all the grades really.

"The Colts are looking pretty good this year, they're pretty buoyant about what their season holds and obviously with the depth from the Reserves last year, the boys have trained on really nicely.

"We're in a pretty fortunate situation where we have some really good players who will be pushing for League selection this year."

Juggling a WAFL career becomes harder and harder for players the longer they continue to do it and as their careers and families continue to grow, and it's harder to make that significant commitment.

That's why at Swan Districts it's a focus to find a way to make it work with the experienced players rather than seeing them prematurely have to call an end to their careers.

That's why Tony Notte can continue to play and add to his 292-game career while living down south, why Nathan Blakely can keep playing after 91 games while working as a doctor and it will be a similar story with 113-game forward Brayden Noble this year.

Pruyn is proud of Swans to have found a way to keep those players involved along with welcoming back key forward Leigh Kohlmann to add to his 22-game, 38-goal career.

"Our big focus at the club is about keeping people like Tony Notte playing WAFL footy to make our competition great," he said.

"So instead of seeing the hurdles and barriers, our club has looked to break them down and keep people like Tony Notte playing footy and Nathan Blakely is no different.

"They can't get to training every session but we've put things in place so that we can keep them involved in the competition and in our club. We see huge value in that.

"I look at someone like Brayden Noble too and he's no different to Tony Notte. He will be up at the farm, but we have to keep people like him in our team and our competition so we'll do everything we can to keep him involved.

"Leigh Kohlmann is a great addition too and I keep telling him that as a big forward you only really learn how to play when you get to 30 and he's just got to that now. So he should be good to go."

Another addition for Swan Districts late in the pre-season has been the dynamic Sydney Stack.

Over 35 AFL games at Richmond between 2019 and 2022, he proved himself a high quality and damaging AFL player, and now Pruyn is looking forward to seeing what the 23-year-old can add to Swans on the field in 2024.

"We're sort of just letting Sydney settle in really and it's more about getting him in an environment that he feels comfortable in, and just trying to help him and get him back to playing footy," Pruyn said.

"That's sort of our focus at the moment and that's a journey that we're on and I think it's something that our club is fantastic at in terms of helping guide these young men through lives.

"That's not only for their footy but their lives outside of that and Sydney is on that journey now, and hopefully a by product of that is getting to see him running around in the black-and-white jumper playing really good footy."