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Cooper post-match Q & A - Preliminary Final v Carlton

AFLW post-match: Dockers Watch Fremantle's press conference after their preliminary match against Carlton

Trent, where did it all go wrong today?
Completely outplayed. We came into the game thinking our pressure had been our strong point and Carlton were the 10
th ranked team for tackles and our ground balls had been outstanding all year. We’ve won that battle every time so we thought they were our two strengths. The tackles were even, Carlton’s pressure was outstanding and the groundballs ended up being 50 to 79. They just convincingly beat us in that area. They got to the ball quicker, they were clean. The effort from our girls was there but we were outplayed from that source and then from there, their forwards are so dangerous if they’re getting enough supply.

What were the circumstances of Kara’s withdrawal?
She’s been battling knee soreness basically all year. We thought at some stage she’d have to miss a game. She’d be able to get through and we were in a situation where every game was must win so we kept her pushing through. Last week she did a quad in the warm up and we were really close to pulling her out of that game but she wanted to play, as we thought she would be a stabilising influence on the team. Anyone who saw the vision would have seen that she was clearly limited but she still did the job for us. This week, we knew we couldn’t go again with her in that state and we just had to hope that the rest of the girls could get through and she would have been some chance to play next week.

So you knew from the start of the week that she wouldn’t play?
We didn’t rule her out from the start of the week. We didn’t rule her out until we told the girls last night as we thought there could be a chance for recovery with it, but it just didn’t look like getting to that point, so we had to make that decision.

Dana Hooker looked like she was a bit sore.
Yes extremely. She was really brave to get through. She had a bad cork and the injury to the sternum, the cartilage. She played with a local (anaesthetic) in the sternum before the game. The girls that did see it, it wasn’t pretty to see. She’s amazingly tough to get through that and she was clearly hampered today and still, she did a great job for us.

Where did Dana have the jab?
She got injured in the sternum and the quad last week. She couldn’t train because of the cork in the quad, it was a bad one, but she overcame that. She was extremely brave to do what she did.

You had about five players come off during the match due to injury?
I think it might have been more. I don’t know how we would have been able to play next week to be honest. Hayley Miller’s done her hamstring. Kiara Bowers had a bad hip pointer. One that might have kept her out next week but it’s not a long-term injury. We had an AC joint injury to Ashlee Atkins. It did look like an episode of MASH in the rooms when we went in.
 

Is it fair to say the team played their grand final last week?
Not really, we basically have had three in a row. Once we lost to Adelaide we had to beat the Bulldogs and if we didn’t do that, our season was done. We were behind in the last quarter and the girls lifted there. Then we went to Geelong and had to beat Geelong to stay in and then North Melbourne as well. I thought with the group, the mood wasn’t tired. They didn’t look tired at training. They’ve been up and about, everything was indicating that we would perform well today but it just didn’t happen. In hindsight, being up for those mini-finals three weeks in a row, it’s played against us and Carlton, on the other hand, have been building all year and they were fine today.
 

Did circumstance also conspire against you, as you had a couple of injuries as well as Tayla Harris, there was no doubt with how she would play today?
Yes she was fantastic. I don’t know if that made a big difference to the game. It could have gone the other way, all the attention on Tayla. To her credit, she handled it really well during the week and then handled it really well today. It could have gone the other way for her but she’s a very mature 21-year-old to handle it like she did and full credit to her.

How do you reflect on the season, given the strides you still made towards success?
I’ve spoken to the girls already and said that they should be really proud of their efforts to turn things around the way they have and how they’ve worked so hard for it. I said that the way the industry is now, they may be open to criticism from today’s performance, so they just have to take that on board as a sign that people are now genuinely interested in the AFLW and we are going to be scrutinised. Today’s performance wasn’t good enough, so we will be the ones that wear that criticism and look towards improvement for next year.
 

How have you seen your own growth from 8 weeks ago until now?
I don’t know if it’s been the eight weeks, it’s more the whole pre-season and what I’ve learnt through that time. You learn things throughout the club, all of our coaches spend a week with the men’s program, working with Ross and his team so that growth comes out all the way through. The whole AFLW is an evolution and it’s good that I’m at the start of my journey coaching at that elite level so I’m learning with the girls as well. We will all be making mistakes along the way and we just have to keep on improving - I’ve loved every minute of it and won’t be resting on my laurels over the off-season to make sure we perform as well, if not better, next year.

What do you take out of the way the season ended?
That’s one that we have to review, I spoke briefly about it but I’m not really sure at the moment. The signs were good that we were going to be able to perform today, but then you look at the girls afterwards and they’re just absolutely cooked. Obviously, there’s the injuries but you look at the other things like our running. Kate Starre, our high-performance manager, came up at half time and she said our running was just way down from where it has been in the past and that can happen when you’re chasing sometimes. So, we’ll review that a bit as well and say well what do we do to get the girls to peak for finals? But sometimes it’s so hard, particularly in that Conference A where every game was a must win. We’ll review how we do that and look at that aspect of it to see if we can do it better next year, but then certain circumstances might mean that we have to win every game at different stages. It’s something we’ll have to go back and analyse a little more closely than what I can do straight after a game. 

What about the list management, obviously with West Coast coming how do you handle that?
It makes things difficult, we’ve loved what we’ve done this year, we think we’ve made an environment that the girls are really happy with. Obviously, the way that the tiers work and different things with ASA’s, we know that the girls will be offered more money, some will be a small amount, and some will be quite significant. We’re really confident we aren’t going to lose anyone because they’re unhappy at the club, if they do move it will probably be for that financial situation and we can’t control that we just hope that we’ve created an environment good enough to keep the people at the club, particularly the good people that we think we have got in that room that are probably hurting over there at the moment.