Monaghan looks to bring bite back to Sharks

Monday, March 11, 2019 - 3:59 PM by Chris Pike

WITH East Fremantle looking for someone to lead them back to success and Bill Monaghan on the lookout for a new start, the two joined forces in the off-season and now the Sharks are looking to rise up the ladder in 2019 as a result.

It has been lean pickings in recent years for East Fremantle with the Sharks narrowly avoiding the wooden spoon in 2017 but not being so lucky last year. They won just two games on the way to a last place finish leading to the resignation of coach Rob Wiley.

It was time for a fresh outlook and voice for East Fremantle and when Monaghan came on the market having decided not to seek reappointment with West Perth, then he appeared the perfect man for the job.

Monaghan left West Perth as a premiership coach in 2013 and having taken the Falcons to Grand Finals in 2015 and 2017 along the way becoming the club's longest-serving and most successful coach in history.

That was quite the legacy for the former Subiaco and Peel Thunder hard man to create with West Perth and while he was ready to walk away from the Falcons, he was far from done with coaching in the WAFL.

So he put his hand up to coach at East Fremantle, was subsequently appointed and now ever since the hard work has been on-going to try to help the Sharks rise up the WAFL ladder in 2019 and improve on the two wins they recorded in 2018.

The Sharks have made some encouraging signings to help in their quest to improve including West Perth premiership hard man Kody Manning joining Monaghan in the move to the Sharks from the Falcons.

Luke Strnadica has also returned to the Sharks after his time on Fremantle's AFL list while Morgan Davies has come across from Claremont as has Alex Bray from Peel Thunder.

While there are some losses that sting too including reigning Lynn Medallist George Hampson and former AFL pair Jonathon Marsh and Jamie McNamara, Monaghan finds himself content with the East Fremantle squad he has at his disposal.

What Monaghan doesn’t know and he won't know until the season gets underway, is if he has had long enough with the group for them to be up to speed enough to have fully embraced his new game plan.

But whether it's from the start of the season, four rounds in or halfway in, he's confident that things will start clicking with East Fremantle sooner rather than later.

"I'm just worried that whether or not everything we've been working on and introducing to the playing group will click before the first game. I've been open to the board and everyone here that I'm confident we can get it done and be competitive and win games early in the season," Monaghan said on 91.3 SportFM.

"But we have to be realistic to say that it may not happen and if it doesn’t, that doesn’t mean there's not opportunities to learn and grow to improve from. It's unlikely that we will go from a two-win season to the premiers in 2019 even though that's our grand plan. 

"People would be pretty foolish to start saying that too much around the place so we are just going to be the best we can. If our best is good enough then we'll win games, but if not then we'll keep working hard until it is."

In terms of introducing the new game style and the new things he wants the Sharks to adhere to in 2019, Monaghan has tried to just focus on the basics for now with the hope of them getting those perfect rather than overloading them all at once.

He knows it might be a long-term process to get the Sharks to where he wants them to be, but he is confident that when it clicks the results will be impressive.

"We are keeping it pretty simple and there are three or four things that we need to get in place that will form the foundations of our game style so rather than trying to fix 5 or 15 things, there's just a few that we've identified as being most important," Monaghan said.

"Most of them are about the way we defend and setup for our stoppages and a little bit of ball movement. There have been some other things that have been put on the backburner until we got those things sorted out. 

"There's a lot to do but we'll be foolish to try and do it all in one hit. We need to slowly improve and the players are getting their head around it, but it's far from perfect at the moment so there's plenty of work to be done."

While Manning, Strnadica, Davies, Bray and company are officially new recruits to East Fremantle in 2019, one player who virtually is also is former Swan Districts and Carlton wingman Blaine Boekhorst.

He ruptured his ACL in the first 10 minutes of the first game of 2018 upon arrival at the Sharks meaning his season was over before it really started. 

But he's now raring to go in 2019 and Monaghan is looking forward to seeing what he can produce for East Fremantle.

"He's been really keen to get back and he's an experienced WAFL player who has been on an AFL list. I would expect him to understand what I'm asking the players to do, and he asks a lot of questions and demands a lot from his teammates," he said. 

"He's got great ability and I was lucky enough to coach him in a state team a few years back and obviously to coach against you look at the challenges he brings with good speed and endurance on the outside while being a good mark and a good kick. 

"I'm sure East Fremantle people last year were disappointed he didn’t play much footy but hopefully he's reinvigorated, gets his knee right and will be a major contributor for us this year."

With Strnadica on board for the Sharks in 2019 joining Cameron Loersch and with captain Jonathon Griffin still leading the ruck, that gives Monaghan plenty of options with his big men.

That's something that is new for him as a coach but he's excited by the prospect of always having two tall targets in attack and of having a game plan in place to take advantage of the size he has at his disposal at the Sharks.

"It's actually strange for me and no disrespect to the forwards I had at West Perth and Tyler Keitel last year kicked 50 goals, and Michael Lourey was a good target but it's not an area that West Perth had a huge number of players in with those tall key position players," Monaghan said.

"But we've actually got five guys on our list here at East Fremantle over 200cm and it's something like 24 over 190cm. it's a lot taller squad than I'm used to so that will present a challenge for me as a coach because I probably got used to functioning around a smaller forward-line. 

"We relied on moving the ball quickly and kicking to open space and hopefully use our speed, so being taller is a challenge for me and our coaching staff. But it's one we are really looking forward to.

"The principles, though, of how we played the game at West Perth and how I expect East Fremantle to play are fairly similar. 

"It's just going to be exciting to have Cameron and Luke up forward plus Jack Perham, Dillon O'Reilly and a couple of other young kids coming through our reserves and colts to give us some targets to kick to."

Monaghan can feel an excited feel around town for the 2019 WAFL season and he's happy to embrace that, but really his focus is on making sure East Fremantle is ready to go for their Round 1 clash with Claremont at Claremont Oval.

But having 10 teams and an even fixture without the need for a bye each week and each team playing one another twice, home and away, is something he couldn’t be happier about.

"There is a bit of excitement about the season but when you are in the coal face and working day to day, our job is just to prepare the players the best we can and we are so busy in trying to educate the players and getting them to improve that we don’t spend a lot of time looking outside of it," Monaghan said.

"We get to training and it's all hands on deck and we are going full boar through things. For me one of the flaws we've had in the competition for a long while is the uneven fixturing and how that plays up with having to play home and away unevenly and playing the same side twice in a short time. 

"All those things will be better in 2019 from having 10 teams. Whether 10 teams is right or not is irrelevant, but the fact is I'm looking forward to having an even fixture and I'm sure all coaches and players are as well."