Cook to lead young Bulldogs again in 2013

Friday, February 22, 2013 - 3:30 PM

RYAN Cook will again captain South Fremantle for the 2013 WAFL season and coach Paul Hasleby is excited by the leadership group that includes plenty of new and old faces.

Cook will remain captain with the returning Craig White vice-captain and 32-year-old 113-gamer Paul Mugambwa will be part of the leadership group for the first time along with Toby Bairstow, Adam Guglielmana, Adam McIntosh, Nick Borovac and the returning Mitch Carter.

Cook took over the captaincy in 2012 from Toby McGrath in his second year with the Bulldogs after coming west off his time in the AFL with Collingwood.

The hard running midfielder took to the captaincy well averaging 23.4 disposals a game as he continually led by example in whatever role asked of him by Hasleby.

By the end of the season, Cook was clearly comfortable in his role as captain and the young South Fremantle team was showing exciting signs for the future winning four of its last five games to go into the pre-season with some good momentum.

Hasleby had no hesitation in reappointing the 25-year-old Cook captain for 2013 and is excited by the leadership group surrounding him including returning 139-gamer former vice-captain and dual premiership player Craig White, and emerging youngsters like McIntosh and Borovac.

"He (Cook) has been appointed captain again and I thought he was fantastic in terms of his leadership last year in what was a pretty tough initiation for him and myself being new to those roles," Hasleby said.

"In the second year up he is going to have Craig White to support him and we have a really good leadership group pushing through made up of some guys who have been around five or six years, but also some second or third year players as well."

Last season was certainly a tough initiation into coaching for Hasleby as he had to oversee South Fremantle going from having one of the most experienced list, which included himself, in 2011 to suddenly being one of the youngest as 2012 unfolded.

With McGrath, Josh Head, Ryan Murphy and Hayden North now among those experienced players and leaders to have moved on, Hasleby saw plenty of good signs towards the end of last season that he now hopes can be built on.

With key players retiring and a season-ending injury to Toby Bairstow, Hasleby found himself having to blood youngster after youngster, and that ended up seeing South Fremantle finding form by the end of 2012.

It was the young players that provided much of the improvement and Hasleby is looking forward to that continuing.

"It was a frustrating year last year because we were so close in so many games, but we know in this game you have to win and if you don’t win, you don’t play finals and that's what happens. We did lose a few guys mid-season and with that came opportunities for the young guys," he said.

"They stepped up and took their chances, and you always find that with young guys who are hungry, and been waiting for their opportunity. The challenge is for them to back it up this year and not rest on their laurels."

"I also see a few of these young guys pushing through. Adam McIntosh and Nick Borovac are two of them who have been named in our leadership group now and they need to take the next step," Hasleby said.While White does return to the Bulldogs and will be a leader in the back-line, it was the defence with the likes of Borovac, McIntosh, Adam Doughty and Brendon Gulley that was outstanding, and Hasleby is backing them to go to another level again.

"We were very excited about some of the young players that came through last year, and we need them to follow through now and become 100-plus game players for this footy club."