Sharks embrace adversity ahead of premiership push
East Fremantle coach Bill Monaghan says he is proud of how his team has thrived in the face of adversity through a difficult 2023 season.
The Sharks’ journey to their first grand final since 2012 has been far from seamless, with the redevelopment of East Fremantle Oval seeing them spend the last two years playing and training on the road and the news of an alleged salary cap breach breaking on the eve of their finals campaign.
Monaghan told Sports Breakfast setting up an ‘us against the world’ mentality in his playing group was well-suited to his coaching style.
“There’s going to be challenges, we can either sook about them, whinge about them, all of that, or we can just laugh, and we have,” Monaghan said.
“Some of our best experiences have been over the last couple of years without a home.
“There’s positives in it if you spin it in a positive way. The players’ attitude to it all has been fantastic.
“Keep your eye on the prize and move forward, that’s all we can do. The players are employed to play, all the other stuff’s noise and that’s the way we treat it.
“Does that mean we’ll win this week? No, but I am really confident we’ll put our best foot forward.”
Monaghan arrived at the then wooden-spooner Sharks in 2018 after being controversially sacked on the back of a successful decade with West Perth, including a 2013 premiership win and a grand final appearance in his last year at the helm of the Falcons.
The 55-year-old said the contrast between the two situations could not have been sharper in his early days.
“When I got to East Fremantle, it was horrific in terms of the standards the players had to be able to drive their own culture, their own values, their own beliefs,” he said.
“We made some really tough decisions. I think in my first year, we lost four of our top five in the Lynn Medal … in the end, guys were making their own decisions, they couldn’t handle the commitment and the standards.
“For the first year and a half, [I] was screaming and yelling. I couldn’t get them to line up to do a training drill properly.
“Now, it’s just a completely different dynamic.”
The semi final between the Sharks and their grand final opponents Peel Thunder two weeks ago saw the minor premiers barely hold off a fourth-quarter charge to seal their spot in the season decider, but Monaghan said he was confident his side could match the fitness of their AFL-aligned opponents.
“You do coach a little bit [differently],” he said.
“I think we have got good running power, good speed.
“It concerns me a little bit that Peel got us late and it appears they were all over us, but it wasn’t their running power, what we couldn’t do was get the ball out of our back half.”
The WAFL grand final between East Fremantle and Peel Thunder gets underway at 3:20pm on Sunday at Optus Stadium and is being broadcast live on 91.3 SportFM.
IMAGE: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian.