AFLW captain Emma Swanson is optimistic a lift in professionalism and standards – plus an influx of talent via the draft - will help drive West Coast’s improvement in coming seasons.
The Eagles are putting in the hard yards at training ahead of their fourth AFLW campaign and Swanson likes what she has seen from the young and developing group.
After last season included a lengthy stint on the road in a Melbourne hub and resulted in ‘winning’ the wooden spoon, the Eagles have refocused and are looking forward to a new season starting in late August.
“I think the first thing we need to tick is turning into professional athletes. Success will start to come off the back of that,” Swanson said.
“We’re focusing on trying to raise the professionalism and standards off the track. In my mind, once you start doing it off the track it merges into the rest of your life, and when you cross the white line and you go and play a game of football, you’re sort of already there.
“I think the focus is there for pre-season. The fixtures look pretty good and I’m really excited to see what we can dish up.”
Swanson, who claimed the AFLW Club Champion Award in 2022’s already completed season after a stellar year, has been excited by the fresh faces joining the club, including seven players via last week’s draft.
Building synergy will be important, however many of the incoming players are already familiar with each other from their junior playing careers.
“For me, personally it’s something if I’m honest it was something I was a bit worried about but when you realise the draftees that are coming in they all know each other from playing state 18s the same way as what myself, Belinda Smith and ‘Gibbo’ (Kellie Gibson) all did,” she said.
“To me they’re all brand new faces, and I’ve maybe met them here or there and had a small conversation or seen them play, but a lot of the girls actually know each other pretty well.
“That’s a benefit of having a young group and we’ve got a camp on this weekend which will be exciting to get to know each other a little bit more.”
One of the talented Eagles joining the nest was prized first pick in the WA ballot, Ella Roberts, who has already impressed with her skills on the training track.
“I’ve really, really enjoyed it so far. The step up is massive, but I think it’s the best for me. Your skills have to go up, everything has to go up, (including) intensity,” Roberts said.
“Just the fact you can’t slack off at any point, which is good. It’s awesome. Sprinting to the cones, it’s getting my fitness up, which I’m loving. It’s tough, but it’s good.”
The emerging forward is eager to learn as much as she can before her debut season commences, especially from the likes of Swanson.
“I think ‘Swanny’ is pretty cool,” Roberts said.
“I’ve looked up to her for a couple of years, so training with her and hopefully playing with her is very special and something I’m really loving.”