All that a coach can ask for ahead of the opening round of the season is to have close-to-a-full list of players to choose from.
Western Jets’ coach Torin Baker could get his wish for Sunday’s TAC Cup season opener against Northern Knights at Ikon Park.
“One of the most exciting things about our pre-season is we’re thinking that we’ll have all bar one of our players available,” Baker said.
“That’s in stark contrast to what happened last year when we went into round one with about 15 unavailable.”
Even with an almost full list available for selection, the Western Jets cannot go into round one overly confident as their new-look squad needs time to mesh.
With a high turnover of players on all TAC Cup lists, they also can’t be certain of the threat posed by the Knights.
“We’ve got a whole bunch of new players … and so has the opposition,” Baker said. “That’s the exciting thing about TAC Cup footy, from year to year it can change quite a lot.
“All we can focus on is what the attitude is like of our players and their commitment.
“That’s been outstanding, from my point of view.”
A key focus for the Western Jets in the off season was their work out of the stoppages.
Jets coaches drummed into the players what they’re asking for, both offensively and defensively, in contested situations.
“We’ve really hammered the contest in as much as possible, and we’re hoping to be really effective in that area,” Baker said.
“There’s so many numbers around the ball, you’ve got to be so sharp with your ball-handling and decision-making.
“The patterns of running are on the back of that, and also how you defend that … it all happens in such a short space of time,” he said.
“So you’ve got to be constantly training it, coaching it and showing players vision of it, and that’s how you’re going to get better at it.”
It has been a long pre-season after the Western Jets started their campaign in the first week of November. The lengthy summer on the track inspired a number of players to put their hands up for leadership positions, with Luke Hitch and Nick Stuhldreier voted in as co-captains, Judah Dundon as vice captain and Xavier O’Halloran also part of the leadership group.
“All those boys have been enormously impressive,” Baker said. “For Luke and Nick, it’s a fantastic honour and I know they’re super proud to be the captains of the Jets.
“It’s something they will look upon pretty fondly in their footy career to be captains of a TAC Cup club.
“The players voted all those four leaders in, and it was endorsed by the rest of the club.”