HAVING arrived in the past few weeks, it has been a busy time for Western Jets Talent Manager Luke Williams. The new Talent Manager has taken over from Ryan O’Connor who stepped down over the off-season, and while the prospect of arriving at a club so close to the season start might be daunting, Williams said the staff had been terrific in welcoming him. Williams said the club was keen to keep as consistent on and off the field as possible with so much change this year, including a new coach in former Sydney Swans star, Ryan O’Keefe at the helm.
“I think we’d like to be known for consistency,” Williams said. “Whether that be consistency with the performances on the field, and also the way in which our players conduct themselves at the club and away from the club, that’s the same with our staff, we have some great staff who have been working at the club for quite some time and know what it’s all about, so consistency of performance is something we want to be known for.”
While Williams had not witnessed the full pre-season, speaking to others at the club, he was pleased with the feedback regarding how the players had trained since returning to the club ahead of the 2019 season.
“The players have trained really hard,” Williams said. “We’ve got our squad down to our final 49 now and there’s a really strong cohesion in the group, so the preseason has gone through unscathed. “We’ve managed to play one preseason game against Gippsland last week which we got a lot of positives out of and the players are ready to go.”
Last year three players were drafted into the AFL, with Zak Butters (Port Adelaide) and Xavier O’Halloran (GWS GIANTS) drafted in the first round, and Buku Khamis heading to the Kennel under the Next Generation Academy (NGA). This year there are another handful of prospects already standing out, which he hoped would increase as the year went on with development the key aim rather than onfield success, although the latter would be an added bonus.
“The program focus is developing all the players, so we want to see significant improvement in the players on field and off field, you play football to try one another, the camaraderie, and ultimately share wins together so, we’re hopeful of having enough wins this year to play in the finals, that would be a worthy objective,” he said. “Three standout players for us, to watch this year are Josh Honey – Josh is an explosive midfielder. “Another player to watch is Darcy Cassar, Darcy played most of last season as a bottom-ager across half-forward but hopefully he can move through the midfield, and the last player is Emerson Jeka. “Emerson is a key position player with great skill and balance. “All three of those players are in the Metro program, they’ve had great preseasons and they’ve been in the program for a few years so they’re ready to go.”
Williams said while the above trio had stood out, the depth across the entire squad was healthy and he looked forward to seeing how many players could take another step forward in their development in 2019.
“We’ve got a pretty even group to be honest, in that respect, I can’t say there’s been too many standouts,” he said. “Having said that, there’s been a lot of improvement from a lot of players, so the games will have a lot to do with those players stepping up. “We’ve nominated co-captains in Lucas Rocci and Spencer Johnson, so we’re expecting good performances from them, they continued to improve on their form last year so they could be players to watch throughout the season.”
In readiness for Round 1 and the season ahead, Williams was keen to uphold the pride at the Jets and see the entire playing group and staff work together. Williams said he hoped more consistency could come this season and could not wait for Sunday’s game.
“We’re a proud region,” he said. “We do pride ourselves on getting the best out of one another and working together so hopefully that comes through in our consistency and performance this year.”
Western Jets open their season against Northern Knights at Ikon Park on Sunday.