WAFL 2022: East Fremantle confident of depth despite losing three key players

Ben SmithThe West Australian
East Fremantle Sharks player Matthew Jupp and coach Bill Monoghan at the WAFL season launch.
Camera IconEast Fremantle Sharks player Matthew Jupp and coach Bill Monoghan at the WAFL season launch. Credit: Simon Santi/The West Australian

East Fremantle coach Bill Monaghan is adamant his team had the depth to overcome the loss of three key players to the AFL in pre-season.

After finishing last season with a head full of steam, the Sharks are hoping to return to the finals for the first time since 2013 when they begin their season against Peel on Friday afternoon.

However, they were dealt a blow in pre-season when West Coast snapped up ruckman Luke Strnadica, key forward Hugh Dixon and recently-signed midfielder Tom Joyce during the AFL’s Supplemental Selection Period (SSP).

Strnadica led all WAFL ruckmen in hit-outs last season, while Dixon kicked 19 goals in nine games, and Joyce was East Fremantle’s major off-season signing after joining from the Brisbane Lions.

While it would be easy for Monaghan to curse his luck, having lost two key players and a major off-season acquisition a month out from round one, the Sharks coach said he was focused on getting on with the job at hand.

Monaghan was confident there was enough quality in the East Fremantle squad to compensate for their loss, such as the arrival of new ruckman Jeremy Goddard.

WAFL 22 Season Launch. Optus Stadium. East Fremantle Sharks. Matthew Jupp and coach Bill Monoghan
Camera IconWAFL 22 Season Launch. Optus Stadium. East Fremantle Sharks coach Bill Monaghan. Credit: Simon Santi/The West Australian

“Goddard was in the state squad; he’s a like-for-like replacement for Strnadica, so that helps us a bit. Tom Joyce didn’t play with us last year, so do we need to replace him?” Monaghan said.

“Hugh’s a big loss, but with (Jonathon) Marsh, (Dillon) O’Reilly, (Lachlan) Bailey...we’ve got other talls down there.”

Even though the SPP cost him three of his best 22, Monaghan said he was delighted to see the trio get another chance at AFL level and hoped it would mean more opportunities for mature-age players in the future.

“Mature age players is quite a difficult term - sometimes we use that for 19 and 20 year-olds, but I think the balance of having top-up players ready to go from state leagues is good,” he said.

“I could probably envisage a model where we maybe we should bring the AFL list down from 40 down to 35 and have permanent top-up players.

WAFL 22 Season Launch. Optus Stadium. East Fremantle Sharks. Matthew Jupp and coach Bill Monoghan
Camera IconWAFL 22 Season Launch. Optus Stadium. East Fremantle Sharks captain Matthew Jupp. Credit: Simon Santi/The West Australian

“While that impacts us at WAFL level, it’s great for those players to get an opportunity. Drafting at such a young age is a bit hit or miss, and a lot of people get spat out the other side, so I’m really excited for the guys to get the opportunity, and that’s part of our job, to develop players and get them ready for AFL footy.”

Sharks skipper Matthew Jupp said while their loss would be felt on the field, they had to be adaptable and flexible this season.

“One thing COVID has taught us is how to work in a week-to-week space, and it’s kind of been a blessing that we’ve learned that lesson over the last year,” he said.

“Especially moving into this year, and it was a good blessing in disguise we lost them early, we’ve been able to prep for that - we didn’t lose them mid-season.

“They’re great players, but we’ve got players to fill the gaps, and we’re soldiering on.”

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