CEO Simon Garlick appeared on SEN WA to answer questions from Mark Duffield following Fremantle's 53-point loss to Carlton, which saw the Club slide to 14th on the ladder.

Read what he had to say below.

MD: Let's get the operational stuff out of the way. First, will you be challenging the Caleb Serong suspension or will you be accepting it?

SG: We're working through that as we speak. We're weighing up all the elements, particularly the likelihood of a successful challenge. We're looking at it really closely, I'd suggest the challenge is more likely than not, but there's a few things we're working through this morning before we finalise that.

MD: It's been a disappointing season. Tell us where you sit and how you feel about it.

SG: We're incredibly disappointed with where we're currently at. We certainly haven't delivered against our own internal expectations and understand that we haven't met those of our members and fans and those of the broader football industry and media. While that is the case, realistically, our focus is on doing all we can right now to turn that around. There's no better challenge in footy right now than the Pies at the MCG this coming Saturday. That's a complete and utter focus for us. At the same time, it's really important that we look to win as many games as we can on the run in this year and stay in contention, while at the same time not losing sight of our overall objective of building a team and a Club that can contend on a sustained basis. That's our overarching objective and our members and supporters have heard me talk about that regularly. That remains unapologetically our priority and one that we certainly believe we can and will achieve.

MD: You and I have had a number of discussions about progress not being linear. We both thought there'd be a plateau and not a sinking down to 14 on the ladder where you are at the moment. What do you think has gone wrong for you this season?

SG: You're right, we've had a smooth progression under JL (Justin Longmuir) since the first year in 2020, when we won seven games, 10 in 2021 and 15 and a half last year. We are very mindful of the fact that this game is as uncompromising and ruthless a competition as there is in the world. The reality is, when you're finishing in the top six, you tend to get a harder draw. You're not sneaking up on any side and the expectations grow. We made decisions at the end of last year that were all within our control that made us younger again, so we knew there were going to be some challenges this year. That's not a rationalisation or making any excuses, but we haven't performed to the level that we'd like. Particularly the inconsistency around the contested part of the game and the clearance part of the game. It might be a simplification but it's clear that our greatest level of improvement will come from us getting our game in order at the contest. We were vastly improved in our scoring capability effectiveness last year off the back of a strong clearance and contested game. What this year has shown is that you only have to be slightly off on any given week, and you get beaten. If you're a fair way off you get belted, as we saw on the weekend against Carlton and a few weeks ago against GWS. Our job now is to recover from that, as we did after GWS and beat a pretty impressive Essendon in the following week. That starts this week against the Pies.

MD: There's always trends in the game and fast footy appears to be taking teams up the ladder and careful footy appears to be taking teams back to the pack. Justin Longmuir, if I would describe him as a coach, is a problem solver but also a coach who likes control and likes careful football. Does he need to change to follow the trends in the game?

SG: I think all Clubs and coaches are constantly looking to evolve. Justin was vocal earlier in the year that when the game hasn't gone our way, or the opposition have got on top of us, we have become insular. That's not a directive and not a style of play. We're looking to continue to work at the opposite end of the spectrum. In the game against the Bombers, or when we beat Geelong early in the year, or Sydney or Melbourne, we saw dash with our ball movement. We'll look to ensure that we're not playing it safe and worrying about making an error, which is what it's looked like at times when we've haven't had our game in order at the contest and beyond. It's a constant evolution in any coaching group, along with the playing group, always looking at ways we can improve. As you said, that certainly looks to be a trend that's occurring at a broad level and when we're playing our best, it's something that we can do quite well.

MD: We've asked listeners to text questions in and there's one fairly forthright one saying time to get ruthless (with Fremantle's coaching). Do you think that's a widespread view amongst the members? Or do you think that's isolated?

SG: I don't think (the listener) is completely on their own, but I think it's certainly a short term and narrow view. I'm not sure where they were sitting when we won 15 and a half games in the regular season last year and were able to win a final. We've been incredibly disappointed with our starts this year, it's a real issue for us giving away the first three goals of the game. The Richmond game was a great example that we worked our way into it but we're just relying on too much from too few towards the end of the game to get us the result. It's just such a short-term view when we're building. There are precedents all over the competition of sides that off the back of a culture-based environment and a values-based program have been able to contend for decades. We're not a Club that's going to blink and jump at shadows just because it hasn't gone exactly as we wanted to right now. Our organisation has played consecutive AFL final series once in its history from 2012 for four years running and then we fell off a cliff after 2015. We're making decisions that maximise our chances of winning every game we play in right now in the short term, but by the same token, we're not going to make easy decisions to avoid criticism at the expense of the long-term plan. I get a lot of correspondence from fans, and I understand the frustration at what's occurring right now, but we believe there's a foundation with a cohort of young and talented players that are coming through together that are going to be the nucleus of a premiership winning side and we're not going to step away from that.

MD: There were times you've used Matthew Johnson and Neil Erasmus in the centre square (in crucial periods of games). Was this part of the short term / long term balance you're trying to achieve, where you're trying to get big time experience into these players - but has it come at a cost?

SG: Where we sit right now is all of the selected teams up to round 17, we've fielded the second youngest and second least experienced in the AFL. We've been less experienced than every opponent we've played this year other than Hawthorn. That's not an excuse by any stretch of the imagination, it's just the facts of the matter. We believe we've got a very strong cohort of high talent and high character young men. They’re as driven as I've seen a group in footy and the group that are 24 or younger that are coming through, there's 12 to 15 of those that we think incredibly highly of. For us to be able to get that experience, you raise Matt Johnson as an example, he's played on Marcus Bontempelli twice this year in two separate games for extended periods. We think Matt's got an incredibly bright future and we're really pleased to see him commit long term to the Club. You can't understate the value of that type of experience. We're trying to give ourselves the best possible chance of winning while at the same time understanding the benefits that the investments that are made now are going to pay off in time.

MD: Regarding the contracts given to Nat Fyfe and Michael Walters. Walters appears to be tracking well. Nat's body appears to be failing him and you've got two more years of contract to run there. Do you regret that? Or are you confident you can get more good footy out of Nathan once he overcomes the foot problem that he's got at the moment?

SG: I'm really confident. The foot problems are really disappointing but it's an isolated scenario. Nat's most significant injury challenges were really a basis of how hard the type of player he's been, when the shoulder and other areas were letting him down because of the load that he's had to bear. You know how much of a professional he is and having professionals around that younger group is going to be invaluable. The one upside of his current injury is the other areas I referred to are getting a bit of respite and getting better and stronger by the day. The deal that Nat signed is very advantageous for us as a Club. He's a warrior and I'm very confident the final chapter in Nat's incredible Fremantle journey is yet be written.

MD: Are you confident the Luke Jackson deal will end up being a good one for Freo?

SG: Yes I am. We didn't recruit to necessarily change the world overnight. We forget that he's a young 21-year-old ruckman who's still finding his way in the game. He's been incredibly successful in that short career, in terms of premierships and rising stars and his impact on the game to date. Ruckmen tend to take until 23, 24 or 25 years of age to really find their feet. He's doing incredible things for a player at his age at this point in time. He's a huge addition to our Club on the field, but equally off field in terms of character. We've already seen elements of his game this year when he single handedly took over the ruck after Sean went off at quarter time against Narrm at the MCG and dominated that game. We saw him combine with Jye (Amiss) and Josh Treacy against the Swans earlier in the year. That was the second time those three played together as a young forward group. We're confident that when they've got 20 or 30 games together, they're going to be a handful. I think in time that trade will look like a very favourable one for the Fremantle Football Club.

MD: Your strategic plan, is it a setback that you can't meet all the criteria that you set in your strategic plan?

SG: We all knew there were going to be critics when we decided to release it publicly. There's a lot of clubs and organisations who don't do it and I think it's very easy to not do it. Those of us in the positions we are in at the Club are there on behalf of our members. They're essentially our shareholders, and absolutely deserve to know, have an understanding and have input into what the Club's trying to achieve on their behalf. We weren't for a minute stepping away from that being the right thing to do. We're not a privately run organisation that just does what it wants to do without consulting and communicating with its most important stakeholders, our members. We understand that we're going to get criticised, that's the nature of the game we're in and the world that we operate in. We'd much prefer to put ourselves on the hook and make commitments rather than playing it safe and keeping our aims and aspirations locked up in a filing cabinet. We'll put everything we possibly can into achieving every one of the aspirations that we've set ourselves for our members and fans. That's where our focus sits. We're just over halfway and we always wanted to be further advanced. We're pushing 62,000 members at the end of this year, we're averaging just a tick under 46,000 attendees at Optus Stadium, we're going to aim to get to 50,000 by the end of 2025. We're in the top five for average crowds behind clubs that have 100,000 members and operate at a stadium that has 100,000 seats. We're profitable, we're pushing towards cashflow targets. The big one has us wanting to make sure we win a premiership in both AFL and AFLW. We don't step away from that for a moment, that's a really important thing for us to do on behalf of our members and fans, and we'll keep focusing on what we can do to achieve those.

MD: Let's finish on a positive note. Jye Amiss, can he win the rising star? He's had an amazing season for a 19-year-old.

SG: Yes he has. We're ecstatic to have Jye commit to the Club long term. You heard him, Matt Johnson, and Josh Treacy talk about the path they see the Club on and the success they potentially see them having with the other cohort. They are all committed to the Club long term. Jye's an outstanding young man with incredible character. People are starting to see he's got the capabilities to lead up forward, to lead at the leg, take a mark and kick a goal. He also finds goals in different ways. To do what he's doing at 19 is incredibly impressive. He's on track to kick 40 goals, which you'd think would have been right in the frame (for the rising star). I know it's not a huge focus for him and certainly not for us as a Club, but it'd be great recognition for someone we think is going to be an important player for us over a long period of time.

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