FOLLOWING six years coaching at two clubs in the reserves and colts while also being a league assistant along the way, new Swan Districts coach Adam Pickering feels his impressive apprenticeship has him ready to take over with the black-and-whites.
Pickering has been appointed as the new senior coach at Swan Districts on the back of four years coaching reserves teams at East Perth and Perth respectively, and the last two years as the Royals colts coach on the back of his playing career.
That playing career saw Pickering spend time at both Richmond and Carlton in the AFL going on to play seven matches with the Blues between 2001 and 2002.
When his time at AFL level came to an end, Pickering made the call to come west and join East Perth alongside former Carlton teammate Andrew Merrington.
The pair ended up being 100-plus games with the Royals and Pickering could have never envisioned when he arrived in 2004 that Perth would become home.
He ended up playing 111 games with East Perth and showed his class, skill and experience in roles largely off half-back where he could set up play. His best WAFL seasons were likely his last three when his body allowed him to stay on the park regularly.
Pickering celebrated his 100th WAFL game with the WA Day win over West Perth in 2010 and then ultimately his final game was the preliminary final loss that year for East Perth against Swan Districts in front of 11,251 people at Steel Blue Oval.
The irony isn’t lost on Pickering that he's now coaching the team that ended his career and he will have that supporter base that despised his East Perth team hoping he can bring them success.
But having done a strong apprenticeship with four years as reserves coach, two as a colts coach and reaching three preliminary finals and a grand final in that time, Pickering feels the time is now right for him to be a senior particularly after having put his hand up for several roles previously.
"I was actually pretty emotional when I got the news and pretty humbled and honoured about it. It was a bit of a surreal feeling to know that what I've been hoping for since I retired to become a WAFL league coach is actually happening. I was pretty humbled that a club like Swan Districts would pick me," Pickering said.
"Missing those jobs didn’t knock my confidence, but it was really good feedback that I got from the East Freo one especially. That gave me a little bit of drive that this is what I actually wanted to do.
"When I didn’t get the job at East Freo, I sat back and thought that I really wanted that after going through the whole process. That made me want to keep chasing my dream."
Pickering replaces Greg Harding as coach at Swan Districts who had been previously in charge since 2011 having taken over from Brian Dawson following the 2010 premiership.
There were some tough times for Harding in charge that he did a tremendous job fighting through to still take Swans to four finals series in seven years and it was 2017 that he did especially well picking them up from the wooden spoon to finish fourth and win an elimination final against West Perth.
While Swans do lose some experience with the likes of Tallan Ames, Ryan Crowley and Jamie Bennell moving on, there remains a strong core with Tony Notte, Alex Howard, Kirk Ugle, Matt Riggio, Adam Faulkner, David Ellard, Corey Gault, Todd Banfield, Jarrad Blight, Matthew Rogers and Ricky Cary.
Swan Districts also have a strong group of young players coming through. Pickering is looking forward to ensuring he helps every player at the club reach their potential.
"I see a lot of potential there especially coming from underneath so if we can harness that talent that comes through the colts and reserves every year then that's important to build on," he said.
"They made finals in all three grades this year so that shows you the club is in pretty good hands in terms of leadership off-field from the President, Board and CEO down.
"There will be a couple of older guys who don’t go around again but that opens opportunity for young guys to step up. My whole mindset is to develop each and every player, and help them individually get better and then collectively as a group actually get better. Hopefully that can all lead to a bit of success."
When you see some players play, they look like they have a lot of time out on the field, that they have natural football brains and they would end up making natural coaches. Pickering fit that bill and it's been no surprise he moved straight into coaching roles after retiring at the end of 2010.
He went on to be assistant coach with East Perth and Perth over the next five years before coaching the Royals' colts the past two seasons, but it was trying to help players get the best out of themselves that enticed him to want to coach more than anything.
"As a player I always liked the intricacies of the game. I liked the structural thought process and looking at running and leading patterns, I really liked that side of the game. When I realised I really wanted to be a coach was my first year as the reserves coach at Perth," Pickering said.
"That was when I could see guys improving making their league debut and watching them get better, so that's when I thought it was for me when I enjoyed seeing guys rewarded after working on things I was helping them with.
"I remember working closely with Brett Hodge who started out as a back pocket but ended up winning a league best and fairest which was such a pleasing feeling as a coach to see a player succeed. That made me feel like I wanted to keep doing this to help players reach their potential and their goals, and most importantly enjoy their footy."
Following four years as reserves coach at two clubs which included back-to-back preliminary final appearances at Perth in 2012 and 2013, Pickering took over as colts coach the last two years for a grand final and preliminary final finish at East Perth.
That's where he felt he ticked off some of the last pieces of his learning to become a senior coach.
"I'm much more rounded as a coach and a lot more balanced with the way I look at things now. And I think having been at a couple of clubs coaching the reserves and being line coach at different clubs that really helped me see different angles," he said.
"And the last two years as colts coach gave me a real good understanding about building relationships with not only players, but staff as well and getting to know semi-professional people inside the club who don’t get paid a lot but love the place.
"That was almost like the last piece of the puzzle I needed to learn about. I do think I've done a reasonable apprenticeship and am ready to go."
Three preliminary finals and a grand final in six years coaching teams is a fair record, but even Pickering feels that could have been a little better particularly with Perth's reserves in 2012 and even East Perth's colts team of 2017.
"I reckon we fell short at Perth in the reserves and we could have won it that year. In that prelim, I think we had 18 more inside 50s, five more scoring shots and kicked 4.7 in the last quarter so I remember that and it still haunts me," he said.
"Even this year with the colts I reckon we fell a bit short and I think we perhaps should have made the grand final, but everyone got tired towards the end of the year.
"We had a really long back end of the year without a bye and a few of the boys coming in from the PSA and state football meant they had been up for a long time. We just ran out of gas but overall I've been pretty happy with how the teams went that I coached."
Pickering has two standout men who he feels have had the biggest influence on him becoming a coach as well. The first came way back when he was still on an AFL list earlier this century and that is Ross Lyon.
The second is Swan Districts' last premiership coach Brian Dawson who Pickering credits with him becoming far more understanding and level-headed in the way he approaches his players than the way he might have been early days in his coaching career.
"I only had him (Lyon) for three years and it was 16 or 17 years ago, but I can still remember him being completely honest with me as a footballer," Pickering said.
"Some of it was hard but he was willing to get his hands dirty to work with me to improve and that approach to coaching stuck with me, and that's what I try to do now. The other one is Daws over the last two or three years.
"I had 'Booby's' (Tony Micale) mentality that you have to hit every session working your bum off and you can't miss sessions or else you can't play, and was really hard on guys. But Daws provided a more balanced look at it about these guys being semi-professional athletes with a life outside of footy so the key is working with them to get that balance right.
"One of the mantras I've adopted is that there's no such thing as a dumb footballer, you just have to be a better coach. It's a really good way to look at it and you can't just give up on blokes, it's your job to improve them and get the best out of them.
"In this climate in the WAFL at the moment you can't afford to lose players so as a coach you have to work with them and find out how to get the most out of them. Daws has been a big influence on me changing the way I approach things."