Performance man offers tips
ALAN McConnell admits he is excited to be a part of forming the emerging West Sydney AFL club.
On Saturday, however, thoughts of that venture were placed to one side as he set to work with young local footballers and their coaches, attending an all-day session at Yeppoon.
For the annual camp at Yeppoon a high-profile person attends and this year was no exception as McConnell is busy forming the playing roster at the new franchise in his position as the club’s high-performance manager.
“Traditionally they invite a celebrity coach, I’m not sure how I got the job,” he joked.
While McConnell has been around the AFL scene for a while, what excites him about the West Sydney project is being a part of building the club from nothing.
“We have a long hard road to go,” he admitted.
Recently it was announced the club would receive generous concessions prior to entering the competition, but McConnell said these were needed as the recruitment of players was nowhere as clear-cut as it is for team’s like the Gold Coast.
“The demographics are different; Gold Coast were given access to the whole of Queensland,” he said.
“Where I am is virgin territory; I call it a lunar landscape.”
McConnell does not worry about the other football codes pushing for spots in the West Sydney marketplace.
“This ‘us against them’ is crazy stuff,” he said.
As a coach he refuses to channel young players into just AFL, saying they can bring something to the game from other footballing codes.
At West Sydney the pool in which McConnell has to dip already has around 70 players contracted to the AFL.
Also the difference in the education system between New South Wales and Queensland has hampered his procurement of footballers with there being one year difference between the states for year-12 students.
“It means we get them for one less pre-season, that is one less year as a professional athlete,” he said.
Not that McConnell is complaining, but merely explaining why the young players he has at West Sydney need time to develop.
Such problems have not curbed his enthusiasm for his task.
“It is a fantastic opportunity starting a club from scratch,” he said. “I last coached at Fitzroy (head coach) and was involved in its demise.”
McConnell has been around long enough to know the club will not be an overnight success, saying the percentages are against any team winning a flag with more than one rookie in its starting line-up.
“What we are aiming for is a long-term sustainable model,” he declared.
McConnell worked with juniors for a two-hour session on Saturday morning.