What Lies Beneath
As featured in the latest edition of Docker
FREMANTLE coach Mark Harvey and his experienced band of assistants, Chris Scott, Dean Wallis, Barry Mitchell and Todd Curley are the men charged with
the weekly task of steering the team to victory.
Images of them in the coaching box during matches are streamed all over the country. To the outsider, it may appear that this group of men are wholly responsible for the performances of the 22 players who run out onto the ground every weekend and for the man- management of the rest of the squad who are striving to force their way in to the team.
However, if you look closer into the mechanics of how Fremantle’s football department operates, you will fins that the club’s coaching team runs much deeper than that.
Beneath the senior coach and his assistants is the club’s Elite Performance Program, which is headed by Simon Lloyd. Having previously worked in key development, leadership and coaching roles at Hawthorn and Collingwood, Lloyd is in charge of the five-man team which is responsible for overseeing the development of the club’s 25 first to third year players.
This team consists of former Fremantle players Justin Longmuir, Shaun McManus, Dean Solomon and Luke Webster, and former Essendon and West Coast player Michael Prior.
Lloyd, who also has a background in psychology, said all five members of his team had brought something of their own to the group.
He had high praise for part-time development coach McManus, one of the most popular players to have ever worn the Fremantle jumper.
“Shaun’s work ethic and professionalism as a footballer was tremendous,” Lloyd said. “He works with his group of players on their technical and tactical development and he pushes that key message and dedication to the younger players.”
Webster is the club’s Player Development Manager and looks after the players off the field in terms of career and education, helping them to put together a plan to acquire the skills to be able to do something away from footy once their careers are over.
The induction of new recruits into the club is also an important part of his role.
“A lot of guys that get drafted from interstate have never lived away from home before, so it’s part of my role to make that transition as comfortable as possible,” Webster said. “I help those guys fit in and make sure they’re looked after.”
Prior is tasked with fast-tracking the development of the club’s youngsters, helping them become AFL footballers by ensuring they live elite lifestyles.
“Everything they do away from the footy club has to be based around becoming better players and trainers,” Prior said. “Things like eating the right foods and what studies they are doing.
“We have to make sure when they get to the club they are not feeling slack or low on energy.”
Justin Longmuir works as a development coach as well as a mentor for Fremantle’s ruck brigade.
He said he enjoyed his job because it was easier to watch footy from the sidelines than it was to play.
“My role is to give the young guys an insight into my experiences from my time in the game and work closely to try and improve their game,” he said.
One Freo ruckman that has improved his game has been Aaron Sandilands, but Longmuir is reluctant to take any credit for the ruckman’s rise to elite status in the AFL.
“He looks after himself,” Longmuir said. “There’s not much I can teach him. I just fine tune him on some things that he may not have done too well on the weekends.”
Dean Solomon retired shortly before the season-proper began, after his knee could no longer handle the rigours of AFL football.
Following retirement as a player, he became a member of the coaching team and works closely with Lloyd and the development group, passing on the knowledge he has gained from a career that has included tutelage from legendary coach Kevin Sheedy and a premiership in 2000 with Essendon.
On match days he sits in the coaching box, helping Harvey oversee opposition tactics and find ways to nullify them.
Lloyd said that having Dean Solomon on board as a development coach this season was a bonus for the club.
“The way Solly played the game was hard and honest and he demanded a lot from his teammates and that’s the way he coaches,” he said. “He drives a lot of our mechanisms in terms of defensive pressure.”
And Solomon said working with Lloyd has been extremely helpful for him in his first year in coaching.
“He communicates very well with the young guys,” Solomon said of Lloyd. “His work ethic is second to none. His attention to detail is very good and the young guys draw a lot of confidence from him.”
Prior said he had nothing but respect for Lloyd, who he said had brought a new level to the development side of the club.
“Lloydy is very thorough and professional in what he does,” Prior said. “I’ve learned a hell of a lot from him.
“It’s a work in progress but over the next few years it will be one of the best if not the best development program in the AFL.”