Long before the AFLW, and WAFLW games being televised live on free-to-air TV, Steph Walding was working hard as a WAFL development officer. Coaching school clinics, umpiring and helping kids improve their skills, Walding’s playing career with East Fremantle hit dizzying heights across 2013-14, when she was drafted to represent both Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs in one-off women’s exhibition games — a concept which paved the way for the creation of the AFLW competition. Now, in her first season as the Sharks’ WAFLW coach, a chance to win a premiership against Claremont on Saturday afternoon at Mineral Resources Park is staring her in the face. East Fremantle will be out for revenge on Saturday, given Claremont’s 7.4 (46) to 6.2 (38) victory over them in last year’s grand final. “It’s been a long time coming,” Walding said. “One thing I’m yet to tick off my list is to be the head coach of a premiership team. I’d love to be able to get it on the weekend, but more so for the players’ sake. “It’s nice to look back and reflect, but at the same time, I’m still learning how to coach and how to be better at it. “We’ve had our challenges this year and I’ve had to change the way I coach a little bit, which has been good for my development.” Walding’s role is more than coaching victories at the Sharks. Aside from developing players and fine-tuning game plans, she presides over a big contingent of squad members who live and work in regional WA. Players from Australind, Busselton, Geraldton and Northampton — including senior figures Beth Beckett and Doma Fedele — routinely spend hours driving to and from the Perth metropolitan area for training and games each week, often after a full day of work. This is something Walding, who grew up in country Victoria, doesn’t take for granted. “I don’t think everyone in the team realises how far these girls travel — just to come and run around for training,” she said. “I know there are a couple in other WAFLW teams who do the same. “If things happen and you cannot get to training, I’m always very supportive. It’s not just about them getting on the training track, it’s about their mental health and family obviously comes first. “And even if they are tired (I understand). Sometimes if you’ve had a big day with work, with kids or both, you need a break and I’m always happy for them to do that. “We’ve got players coming from everywhere, which is another one of those challenges.” Bounce down is on Saturday at 2.45pm.