Bull­dogs build flag on youth pol­icy

South Western Times - - Football - Mitchell Wood­cock

TWO years ago Bun­bury im­ple­mented a youth pol­icy which saw 17 play­ers make their league de­buts.

The loss of play­ers like Jesse Grib­ble, Marc Re, Jor­dan Adam­son-Holmes, Sam Miles and Ai­dan Parker had bled the club dry of ex­pe­ri­ence and they knew they had to turn it around.

A colts premier­ship in 2014 showed the young tal­ent was strong, so the next year then-coach Ryan Pitts be­gan to de­but them at a cost of win­ning.

The 2015 sea­son was not a good one on pa­per for Bun­bury, win­ning just two of their 18 games. Of those 17 debu­tants, 11 played in Sun­day’s 16-year drought break­ing premier­ship.

Long-term pres­i­dent Tom Busher said the club had de­cided they would con­cen­trate on the lo­cal tal­ent to en­sure the fu­ture of the club.

“We just re­ally needed to get back to push­ing the lo­cal tal­ent and the youth,” he said.

“We had gone too far with the re­cruits from Perth.

“It was a case of we just needed two or three to top up the team as we have this year.”

Bun­bury be­gan to see the ben­e­fits of the youth-first pol­icy last sea­son when they made an elim­i­na­tion fi­nal, but their fi­nals cam­paign was cut short in the first week.

Change was still to come for the Dogs, with Pitts step­ping down as coach after six years due to per­sonal rea­sons.

“We said maybe the boys need to hear a new voice,” Busher said.

“Pitts was still around the club all year and he has made a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to this (premier­ship).”

This al­lowed the club to bring 2001 Hay­ward Medal­list Jamie Nani to the club.

At the time Nani cred­ited the young list and its po­ten­tial.

“I want to con­tinue build­ing the club and see these kids con­tinue to de­velop and get se­nior heads around them,” Nani told the South Western Times last year.

“I thought the time was right to come back and try some­thing new.

“Bun­bury’s list is still very young but maybe that’s the ex­cit­ing part, and they also seem to be build­ing a good cul­ture.”

Nani proved to be the right choice for the club, con­tin­u­ing the youth-first pol­icy.

He added key de­fender Travis Justins, and the re­turn of Ai­dan Clarke and Jor­dan Falco from Swan Dis­tricts added run and depth to the mid­field.

Nani’s big­gest coup came in the form of friend and for­mer AFL player Brett Peake.

Not only was Peake’s tal­ents per­fect for the Dogs’ line-up, but his abil­ity to work with the group and buy into the cul­ture added to his worth.

Nani added ex­pe­ri­ence to his coach­ing line-up and worked closely with strength and con­di­tion­ing coach Peter Stokes to get his side at its fittest and most mo­ti­vated.

Young for­ward Pa­trick Far­rant was given the li­cence to show his aerial abil­ity, so much so that he is now a smokey for the AFL draft.

Nani helped de­velop the likes of Kyle Bas­sett, Braiden McMullen, Blair Della Franca, Cullen Boyd and Con­nor Walker into strong league play­ers.

Busher now be­lieves the club is head­ing in the right di­rec­tion and more suc­cess both on and off the field is still to come.

“If you get ev­ery­one row­ing in the same di­rec­tion, then you have a fu­ture,” he said.

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