Schwarze seeks “open flowing exciting” game for WAFLW state match

WESTERN Australia will look to open up its match against the SANFLW tomorrow, with coach Jack Schwarze hoping a “Claremont plus” gamestyle that the WAFLW state side has been training behind the scenes will see a fast moving, high-scoring game.

“I’m super excited,” Schwarze said. “I really just want it to be an open flowing exciting game, but I am expecting the first 10 minutes at least to be really contested and congested and maybe even a little bit scrappy while everyone feels each other out, feels the opposition out and gets a sense of the occasion.

“They’re playing on Optus Stadium so they’re going to be nerves, there’s going to be mistakes, so I reckon it’s going to be the team that can settle after that first 10 minutes to be able to open the game up and that’s what we selected. We selected a team that can fight the first part when we need to fight, but as soon as the game opens up, we’re going to be out on the outside, and that’s how we’re going to win.”

The Claremont premiership coach will not be unfamiliar with a large portion of the squad, with the Tigers boasting eight players from the 22-strong squad, with the team that beat them – East Fremantle – adding a further six.

While every club would love to have more players in the squad, Schwarze said there was even an instant where he took a step back and let his assistants – East Fremantle’s Matt Templeton, East Perth’s Jenna Allomes and West Perth’s Clint Degebrodt – determine whether or not there were others who deserved places over the eight Tigers.

“For me personally I obviously would love to pick as many of them as I could, all the Claremont girls, but I actually got to a point where I was like ‘is this too many of us?’ and we even experimented with taking a couple of them off the board and replacing but it just wasn’t the same and the three assistants were like ‘nah those eight girls have to be in’ it was pretty unanimous,” Schwarze said. “It feels pretty good when they basically select themselves without me having to push for them.”

The benefit of having so many from one or two clubs means squad cohesion should be strong, and the side theoretically could gel faster than a more even spread across the board.

“It does help our connection because that’s always the hardest thing about the state squad, you can get bits and pieces from all over the place and different plans, so to have a big chunk that understand each other and the style of play we want does make it a little bit easier, and they’re complimented by six very very quality East Freo girls and the girls that have come from the other clubs have their own right to have pushed in and playing pretty well as well,” Schwarze said.

East Fremantle skipper Ash Gomes worked her way back into the WAFLW squad after being an initial cut. Image credit: via WAFL

Cutting down a squad from around 60 or so players in February using the WAFLW All-Stars against the Under 18s as a “sounding board” for the team, the coaches cut the squad to 35 after Round 4. Two players who missed the cut – Claremont’s Adele Arnup and East Fremantle’s Ashleigh Gomes – were two surprise omissions, but Schwarze explained the reasoning.

“They were a little bit off in the first few rounds and we were like ‘are we picking girls based on current form or are we picking them on purely on reputation?’, and we went more on form and then they went really well for the last four or five rounds and picked themselves back in the team,” he said.

Schwarze will no stray too far from what he coaches at Claremont when it comes to the WAFLW squad, with a few little tweaks here and there to call the gamestyle “Claremont plus”.

“It’s very much the way that Claremont like to play and what I teach at Claremont which is fast ball movement, exciting brand, change lanes like super attacking and just make it exciting to watch and then defend forward rather than drop any numbers back,” Schwarze said.

“But then when you have the best players from across the league, there’s more that you can do, you can go a little bit harder, a little bit faster because they’re all the best players and they’re able to do it. I didn’t want to stray too far from doing anything dramatically different.”

The match will be played under WAFLW rules and conditions, with 20-minute flat quarters and the last touch rule only applicable between the arcs. While the SANFLW opted for a pure mature-age squad, the WAFLW selected the agreed upon four top-age players for the squad.

Zippy Fish is one of four top-age Under 18s players set to don the WAFLW jumper. Image credit: Rookie Me Central

Initially Schwarze said the coaching panel would just select the three AFLW Academy members in Zippy Fish, Molly O’Hehir and Claudia Wright, but a couple of elements changed the thinking and the Sandgropers added Natasha Entwistle as a fourth top-age player.

“When we lost Demi Liddle and we lost Maggie Maclachlan early in the piece,” Schwarze said. “We pretty much landed on Natasha Entwistle was going to be able to step up and fill one of those holes. [She] has been playing some really, really good defensive footy for East Freo.”

The Claremont coach admitted Peel Thunder bottom-ager Evie Cowcher would be another talented junior added to the mix, but the coaching staff had ruled out any under-age 18s before the process began.

Western Australia heads into the game with a “bunch of ‘what ifs?'” in regards to players with multiple roles, with midfielders Wright and O’Hehir likely to start off half-back, while Fish could begin inside and then provide run outside if needed, amongst a host of experienced players with versatility.

Imahra Cameron will start forward but she can fit inside, Adele (Arnup), (Anjelique) Raison can come inside as well Emily Bennett can go back and forward,” Schwarze said. “There’s quite a number of them that will be able to go across most lines so we’ve got our thought process of what is our preference and then we’ve got all our ‘what ifs?’ if South Australia bring a different standard or gamestyle than we’re expecting so we can change it.”

West Perth’s Emily Bennett is potentially set to play at both ends for the WAFLW state side. Image credit: Brian Conduit

As for the opposition, Schwarze said he followed the SANFLW “a little bit” and took notes from the All-Stars match a few weeks ago which acted as the South Australian side’s trial match. He said the likes of ex-AFLW players in Jade Halfpenny, Laquoiya Cockatoo-Motlap and Caitlin Wendland would be dangerous players to keep an eye on, while a few other state league talents caught his attention.

“(Tahlita) Buethke was quite impressive in that All-Stars game in the way that she moves, Soriah Moon as their key ruck and then Jessica Bates is the other one who didn’t play in that All-Stars game, but she’s their reigning best and fairest so we’re aware of what she’s doing and she’s racking up 30 possessions a game at the moment,” he said.

Schwarze gained a bit of intel from former Claremont midfielder Jasmin Stewart – now at Glenelg – to scope out the style of the SANFLW, with the conclusion that both leagues were fairly similar. When it came to winning though, the coaching directive was just to be wary of opponents rather than focus on individuals.

“We’re aware of a bunch of them, but we’re probably spending more of our time on their total style rather than individuals,” Schwarze said. “Its not like we’re going out one game and going to tag a player, it will be more like ‘hey mids, be aware of Wendland and Bates and Buethke if they go through there and know that they’re going to be able to be damaging’ but it’s more of a case of we know how to play their style and be ready for that, and realistically 80 per cent of our messaging is going about us and what we’re going to do regardless of what they’re going to do.”

As for the key to victory, it was simple for Schwarze. The first team that could open the game up, settle better and put a winning score on the board would come away with the victory.

“We don’t want to be in a scrappy war for four quarters, we want to get the ball out and move it with speed, change lanes and get the ball inside 50 as efficiently as we can, and as deep as we can and that’s where we’ll be able to defend it and that’s where the game will be won I think. Whichever team can do that the quickest and be the most efficient after that initial 10 minutes it is going to work out for them.”

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