They ended up with 12 wins and six losses, which was a great return for the Pies 2016 season, particularly after a three and three start. Positive steps were taken too, they added better transition play to the inside game they are well known for. A significant 79 point loss to Palm Beach Currumbin in the prelim final though, took some polish off their great work throughout the year. Still, they were thereabouts and will be a contender again in 2017.
After an eventful off-season that saw the Pies lose 13 players from their 2016 side, there will be a lot of new faces in the black and white colours this year. Coach Brydan Morgan will be implementing a more attacking brand of football, which will require offensive effort from all 18 players, not to mention big contributions from the forwards.
Davey Lewis and Drew Mitchell have had impressive pre-seasons, making them the ones to watch early on. Youngster Rory Johnson, up from the Colts this year has also looked good in the long build up to the first game.
The Western Magpies will be entering period of learning and transition, thanks to the big list turnover. First year senior coach Brydan Morgan spoke about the upside of fresh faces at the club, one of the reasons for a productive team camp at Tellabudgera.
“It’s a learning stage at the moment for the boys, that’s for sure.”
“We spoke about it at camp early in the year in January, so, with turnover obviously comes opportunity for guys,” said the new coach.
As a first year coach there’s a lot of added responsibility and pressure, but Morgan is relishing the challenge.
“I guess the opportunity to be a senior coach and, I guess, get in the trenches with the boys and feel the losses like they do and have that bit of added responsibility is something I’m really looking forward to,” said Morgan.
Morgan has updated the game plan to build on their defensive roots and become a more attacking side, but contested footy still remains a buzzword at the Pies and the boys from the West don’t plan on changing much in that regard.
For skipper Drew Mitchell the focus for season 2017 will be on empowering others to play their role, by simply doing the same thing himself.
“I don’t want to be one of the guys that try and take on too much and get bogged down,” said the Pies captain.
The announcement that Mitchell would captain the club arrived just recently in mid March and was particularly special for the midfielder, who’s been part of the club from the age of four.
“This place is very much a part of who I am, so it’s a real honor to be leading the club.”
“We’ve obviously lost a lot of experience from last year, but you know we’ve gained a lot as well. Yeah, we’re just looking forward to getting out there and seeing what we’ve got,” said Mitchell.
A new coach coming in often results in confusion adapting to a different game style, but the Western Magpies captain is comfortable with their progress.
“Everyone knows what we have to do this year and the style of football we’re trying to play and he’s (Brydan Morgan) done a great job of making that pretty transparent to us,” said the skipper.
A fast moving, attacking side requires the personnel to pull it off, so it will be interesting to see early in season 2017 if the Pies have the type of players needed for that run and gun style. Last year they needed more pace through the middle and may find adapting to the new game style challenging. Despite these issues, this is still a team that finished 3rd on the ladder in 2016, so expect them to match it with the best and be around come finals time.
By Sean Melrose.