Jets “in a good place” ahead of season 2022
WESTERN Jets have long had what has been tagged as a young list poised for future success. The future may well be now, as a couple of top prospects lead the way for a squad which is “in a good place” heading into next season. After the challenge of coaching across a stop-start 2021 campaign, coach Robbie Chancellor is keeping his fingers cross for a clean run, and lauded his players for their preseason efforts.
“It’s obviously been a challenging time for all sport with the stop-start nature of last season and the current climate we’re in,” Chancellor said. “Plenty of girls have had to experience the seven days (of isolation) at home so it hasn’t been the perfect preparation, but the dedication of the girls to do as much as they can to be in good shape for the start of the season has been really pleasing.”
The conversion of promising underage talent into elite top-age leaders has been an area of growth for the Jets. AFLW Academy selectees Charlotte Baskaran and Montana Ham have been linked in many a conversation over the last several years regarding the generation next. Now, it’s their turn to take over.
“Most of the group from last year is back, we’ve got a pretty young squad so they know what’s expected of them,” he said.
“(Baskaran, Ham, and Krystal Russell) in particular, there’s a couple of top-age girls coming back like Trinity Skenderis, Steph Asciak… they’ve been around the club for a while now so I’m hoping that they set a really good example for our younger generation coming through which will hold us in good stead for seasons to come.
“Something I talk a lot about to our girls is that the AFLW is getting better every year, and the challenge for us is if it wants to keep getting better, we’re the next group to make it better. We have to push ourselves a little bit further than the groups before us to make sure that improvements continues and that’s something the girls have really bought into.”
With a dominant ruck in Russell, a ball user as clean as Baskaran, and a dynamo like Ham set to dominate the centre bounce rotation, the Jets are poised well to become a fun side to watch. That sense of enjoyment in the gameplan is something Chancellor has looked to encourage, even with a preseason focus on defence.
“I think we’re a good contest team,” he said. “At times last year our inability to turn games into a contest probably hurt us, so we’ve worked a lot on our defence to make sure that we’re finding our opponents quickly so we can make the game contested.
“In terms of our own possession, we’ve got a lot of gifted runners in our team and a pretty high skill level on the outside. Our best brand of footy looks like a being a run-and-carry style, using our numbers and taking the game on with our legs.
“You’ve got to try and enjoy the way you play so you don’t want to be too dour. Defence is a part of it but you still want to enjoy yourself when you’ve got the ball.”
Looking at the squad as a whole, identifying standouts aside from the aforementioned talent is a difficult task. The Jets are rather even, and have plenty of young guns whose ceiling has not yet been set. On top of that, a lack of continuity over the last few months means we’ll truly find out who can do what once they all take the field.
“We’ve got a squad of 60 and I think the most we’ve had on the track is 40,” Chancellor said. “There hasn’t been a consistent block to really get a read on it. We had a bit of a hit-out yesterday and Steph Asciak looked excellent. Obviously Charlotte and Montana have come back in great shape. Paige Ryan is another one who’s in her draft year and really improved last year.
“There’s plenty of young talent coming through which is really exciting for the region. We’ve got a few girls like Lou-Lou Field and Sierra Grieves who haven’t been eligible to play because of their age, but they certainly would have on their ability… the group’s pretty even and I’m hopeful we can start the year well, it’s going to be a tough team to pick in Round 1.”
Western’s entry into the season looms as a little different to most, presented with a bye in Round 1. It means the Jets face a trip to Tasmania in Round 2 to open their latest campaign, barring any COVID-related interruptions. In any case, with regions forced to be fluid amid the current climate, opportunity presents for players who otherwise may not have had it.