Ahead of the start of pre-season training on Monday, afc.com.au catches up with coach Brenton Sanderson.
In part two, Sando identifies the players who will push for regular selection next season and discusses his expectations for 2013.
Q. Who are some of the young players you expect to push for regular AFL selection next year?
A. “Andy Otten didn’t have his best season (in 2012), but he’s one that you’d think is too good a player not to bounce back. Luke Thompson showed us late in the year that he’s got what it takes and could play a lot more footy. Luke Brown is another. Brodie Martin just got going and then got injured, but he’s in the right age bracket and some of the footy he played this year was super. Jarryd Lyons was playing great footy for Glenelg, but because we didn’t have many injuries just couldn’t break into the side regularly. He’s one that should get more opportunity this year.
"Sam Kerridge would’ve played a lot more games at another club, so he’s another and Aidan Riley is in the same boat. Tom Lynch and Lewis Johnston both had limited opportunities, but had great years in the SANFL and should be looking to break into the side more than what they did this year. I’ve probably listed 12 guys there, but it shows the depth that we’ve got. And then there’s Brad Crouch, who we’re all excited about ...”
Q. There is a lot of excitement about Crouchy especially after his strong finals series for West Adelaide. What are your realistic expectations of him in his debut AFL season?
A. “If Brad’s good enough we’ll certainly pick him. It’s been so beneficial having a year to develop him. He knows our game plan already and he’s got an AFL body now compared to the kids in the draft pool this year.
"If he’s in our best 22, we’ll play him and I’m sure a lot of weeks he will be in our best 22. At the same time, we have to be realistic with our expectations. He only turns 19 in January, so he’s still learning. We won’t rush him.”
Q. There will be a lot of expectation on the team in 2013 after a successful year. How do you manage that internally?
A. “I think 2012 was a season where we felt we had to regain the respect of the competition. We ended up getting within a kick of a Grand Final, so the expectations will be that we go again and go a step better.
“They’re realistic expectations, but at the same time you’d expect the competition to get tighter again. Richmond, Essendon, St Kilda and Carlton all missed the top eight last season. They are four very good sides, who you’d expect to improve and push for a finals berth. Who drops out?
“We just have to make sure we live in the moment. Our strength last season was that we didn’t look too far ahead. We played minute by minute and contest to contest. That seemed to work for us. We won’t look too far ahead. Externally, there will be great expectations but internally we’ll ensure we don’t get too far ahead of where we’re at.”
Q. The team played some good finals footy against Fremantle and Hawthorn. How much confidence do you take out of those performances in regards to the game plan, and its ability to hold up in September?
A. “From half-time of the Semi Final against Fremantle, the next six quarters were at a level we hoped our boys would be able to reach. We wanted a game style that would hold up in big games and in finals. That’s the way we trained and played all season. You have to admire Sydney because they played the same way from round one to Grand Final day. The way they play works.
“We’ll make some adjustments, but the core of the way we play won’t change much. There will just be some refinements and bells and whistles added here and there. When we’ve got our best side on the park and are playing the right way, we’re a tough team to play against.
“Those six quarters (in the finals) will be a real springboard for 2013.”
Log onto afc.com.au over the weekend for the third and final part of our interview with Brenton Sanderson, where he reveals a major focus for the upcoming pre-season