Jack Frost1 (WAFL Golden Era website): What do you think explains East Freo's lack of premiership success since 1998?
Neil Whyte1: Many used to say that it was the number of players lost to the draft into the AFL, but this is no longer an excuse as it has been going on for way too long. There was a great crop of talent when I was designing the EF Football Academy conditioning program which started in 2005. My theory is that, if there is significant talent in the pool, then surely there is a spillover that can be utilized naturally at League level. Then it is up to coaching staff to unify the group with a common goal, to set standards etc. What I noticed was the club was not functioning as a team. Staff were disconnected from one another. i.e. I didn't know what the Physio was doing or saying to players and vice versa...he wouldn't know what I was doing either. I was gobsmacked on my first day at the club seeing colts guys doing weight training in the gym before skills training on the oval. Now, in my world as a pro trainer, this is a cardinal sin just asking for trouble. It's a bit like somebody is running a study to see how many injuries could be sustained...how many hamstrings they could tear etc ha ha. The senior coach at the time did not see eye to eye with my approach...especially when I extracted the colts players out of the weights room who had terrible form...and they were being overseen by a strength and conditioning coach!!! David wanted the boys in the gym to put on muscle, but I had to explain to him it's not that simple...and there is a process...and requires an individual plan. Anyway, I don't know how the club has been functioning since I left...but I would say it is still struggling for cohesion based on the results. Overall though...I really don't understand how the club has struggled for many years now. I can appreciate how the facilities are a bit run down...but this has nothing to do with football ability and training...it does have something to do with a certain percentage of players maybe not wanting to play for EF if the facilities are not up to scratch or if people start talking. So I think it is important for the club to either upgrade the facilities or agree to co-lease Fremantle Oval which appears to be an option at the moment.
I would like to add that Australian Rules football training methods can often be 'old school', particularly at WAFL level. The methods I tried to introduce to EF were much more cutting edge, but they were not ready for it. AFL are much more responsive to change and growth. So I also think that, when clubs are not prepared for progressive change, they can be stuck in the same old same old. This is what I sensed at EFFC in terms of its conditioning for its players.
JF2: What was your experience doing the 1991-92 pre-season at EFFC under head coach Ken Judge?
NW2: I was attempting to make a comeback into football after missing five seasons of football. I was 23 years of age. I kept myself quite healthy and reasonably fit, so that was a help. I got into playing drums and music as a teen which tended to get in the way of my sport. I suppose I was gifted with good motor skill coordination that was developing a lot during my teens...I spent a lot of time playing sport (cricket and football) and athletics. I still knew a lot of guys and some of the staff knew me, i.e. Rod Lester Smith, who knew my older brother Greg, who looked destined for league when he copped some injuries. Greg was fairest and best in first year at Colts and was more than competitive against Brian Peake in intra-club scratch matches...in fact he beat him convincingly on at least one occasion. Anyway...so pre-season was going well until I badly sprained my ankle..it was nearly a break...took me a month till I could walk on it again. Ken couldn't understand how long it was taking. Pre-season was your typical Aussie rules 'old school' pre-season training. I couldn't believe that once we were made to do exercises on the concrete in a car park at Wireless Hill, including 'crunches'. I saw players' backs for the next week with red marks down their spines, ha ha. To cut a long story short, I nearly got in the squad after the intra-club scratch matches, but he advised me to play for Applecross Sunday League as they were based at EF Oval. He was going to watch games and, if I was performing, he said he would be prepared to pull me out of Sunday League. However, I never got my Mojo...I think missing five seasons made a significant difference to my feel and spatial awareness. I still had some skill..but it wasn't quite the same along with my fitness level. And I just couldn't get going at Sunday League and get any momentum. This was very disappointing seeing as I had been a strong Junior - I won the 17's competition best player and was runner up in 16's. I was frustrated because I saw players at the club that I used to play with and against in juniors...some had progressed significantly, others not so much.
|Neil Whyte (aka Whitey).|
JF3: Has East Freo lost that culture of success and how can it be brought back?
NW3: The club has certainly lost the culture of success, and yes, of course, they can get it back. The club has a magnificent history. Going back in history they had a low point in the 1960's for only about six seasons, probably their lowest results ever up until that point, before they bounced back at the beginning of the 1970's. It is a reminder of how successful and consistent the club has been since it started in 1898. In the 70's, 80's and 90's they were a solid consistent club. But it has been an absolutely woeful and humiliating period for best part of the last 20 years (since late 90's). I suppose I see this as a new era and nothing lasts forever mentality. The world is changing and evolving rapidly and I think EFFC is fully immersed within all of this change. I think Subiaco in recent years have developed a winning culture...and hopefully EFFC can develop a similar version in their own style and way in the future.
JF4: Is East Freo's zone good enough now given aging of the population in the traditional heartland suburbs plus multiculturalism?
NW4: It is hard to keep up with zoning because they keep changing it, ha ha. For sure, my area that I grew up in of Ardross, Applecross, Brentwood, Mt Pleasant...was beginning to struggle for numbers even when I was playing back in the 1980's. I couldn't believe that in 1978 Brentwood had an under 18's side, which my brother played for and won the competition fairest and best with. By 1982, Brentwood struggled for numbers and combined with Ardross to form Karoonda, which then eventually changed to what is now known as Booragoon. On another note, I never could work out or find out who was behind changing the quarter lengths from 25 min in 16's and 17's to 20 min which in recent years applies to 14's, 15's, 16's and 17's. It still makes no sense to me...surely 16's and 17's should have longer quarters??? Anyway, I feel the club has plenty of potential talent coming through...it is what you do with the talent that counts. We also have to remember the country regions as well, so numbers aren't the problem. I think every WAFL club will be going through similar circumstances. Of course there are more options for kids now. When I was a kid and teen, there was a strong tradition of Aussie Rules football in winter and cricket in the summer. And athletics was in between. Nowadays it is more diverse including soccer (Perth Glory inspired), basketball (Wildcats inspired), Rugby (Western force inspired), Baseball (Perth Heat inspired), extreme sports (X games inspired) etc. Multiculturalism has certainly played a part in this new movement in recent years with other sports. This has made it much tougher now for funding, volunteers and sponsorships across the board in all of these sports. We don't have a big enough population to allow all of these sports to thrive, and this has been proven to be true. However, there is one massive incentive for parents to send their kids to AFL...their pay is potentially much grander than other sports, and 40 players are listed on a senior list at AFL level. Other sports have much smaller numbers such as Cricket, Basketball, soccer, baseball etc. This is why the AFL have paid attention to attempting to make the game 'cleaner' and less violent to parents to encourage them to play Aussie rules. So the entire issue is quite complex now and extends much further and beyond simply 'aging suburbs'...however, yes, multiculturalism has played a significant role in a changing landscape.
[Note: Neil Whyte started the EF Football Academy in 2005; was the colts fitness coach; and was the fitness coach for development squads. He developed a time-line of development for 14-18-year-olds predominantly. After a stellar junior career (not a Stella career - that would be me!), he played a few colts games in 1984 whilst also playing 17's juniors at Melville. Then he completed pre-season 1984-85 when Graham Melrose was coaching the colts team. At the age of 23, he returned to EFFC and completed the 1991-92 pre-season with the senior team under coach Ken Judge before drifting across to Applecross in the then Sunday Football League.]