Captain Cook confident a win is on the horizon

Thursday, April 11, 2013 - 2:04 PM

SOUTH Fremantle captain Ryan Cook has always felt like a natural leader and is proud to now be in his second season leading the Bulldogs, but getting a win on the board is his sole focus and he doesn’t feel that is far away.

South Fremantle started the season with a strong first half against reigning premiers Claremont before losing full-forward Ben Saunders with Andrew McCarrey getting hurt and ending up losing by eight goals at Claremont Oval.

It was then a tough and tight loss to Perth in Round 3 before another thrilling three-point defeat at the hands of West Perth last Friday night at Fremantle Oval.

There have been plenty of good signs in all three matches and certainly the last two the Bulldogs were disappointed, and in some ways, unlucky to not come away with wins on both occasions.

That's the way Cook sees it as well, but now the focus is just on taking on Swan Districts this Saturday at Bassendean's Steel Blue Oval with the aim of putting together four strong quarters.

"We should be 2-1 to be honest, but the boys are up and about and staying positive. We now play Swans and if we keep up that effort we can go out to Bassendean and get a win. Our effort was there all night and I thought it was fantastic," Cook said.

"Over the first couple of weeks, we only played about half a game but this week it was four quarters. We focused on that all night and even at half-time we said we'd played two good quarters and have two to go.

"We had sustained effort the whole game, which was fantastic, and that's why it hurt so much after the game to not win. Hase said to us after the game that if that effort is there every game things can swing quickly and it won't be long before we start winning games."

Cook has always known of his leadership qualities at whatever level he has played so was thrilled when appointed South Fremantle skipper in 2012 in just his second year with the Bulldogs following his time in the AFL with Collingwood.

However, he really didn’t feel he had to change too much as captain and has continued to lead by example, and has had another strong start to the 2013 season mostly off a wing.

"I have felt that leadership responsibility every year I've played senior footy. I have always tried to lead from the front and that leadership role is something that comes naturally to me," Cook said.

"It's not something I thought I had to do much difference because I had the captain title, it's just something I have tried to do every game I've played.

"I think it's been OK, a pretty good start. I've tried to take my leadership to another level being captain for the second year.

"I obviously think about the team before my own game and try to get all the boys up and about, and look after them. It's been a pretty solid start and hopefully I can have a consistent year, and finish off well."

South Fremantle's midfield has worked well through the start of the season led by veteran Kris Miller with support from Cook, Toby Bairstow, Haiden Schloithe, Reece Adams, Mitch Banner, Jacob Martinez and even Alex Grima and Adam Guglielmana at times.

Miller would likely once again be leading South Fremantle's fairest and best count after three games, but he will miss Saturday's clash with Swan Districts.

That will mark the first game he has missed with the Bulldogs since arriving from East Fremantle for the 2007 season, but with the example he sets Cook and the young midfielders all know the standards and will now look to step up in his absence.

"He just never gives up and he has such high regard for himself, and puts a lot of pressure on himself to play good footy, which is great. The younger boys see that, I see that and it also makes us play well," Cook said.

"He has been fantastic to play with. Our midfield even includes Reecey Adams coming back, Schloithey in there at times and 'Spaniard' as well so they are giving us some youth. We have some pace and the boys who get in and under, and Kris Miller the stalwart has been great dishing it out to us runners.

"We've had a good mix in there and Seany Tighe is doing his role in there perfectly. He's obviously not a ruckman, but he has come over here and is playing that role for us. I think he's been fantastic. We just have to keep working at it and as long as we keep winning the stoppages and get it forward, we can kick some winning scores."

The Bulldogs have a long injury list with Ben Saunders, Jarrod Parry, Lewis Harvey, Shaun Bewick, John Sgherza, Nick Borovac, Andrew McCarrey and Anthony Collica among those to have had interrupted starts to the season.

Saunders, Bewick and Harvey are still fighting their way back, but with young players like Kingsley Smith, Jason Maskos, Tom Vandeleur, Sean Lynch and Jacob Martinez receiving opportunities Cook feels that a bit of short term pain could lead to some longer term success.

"We've just tried to bring the boys in, get the twos putting pressure on the league boys and then play good footy when they get the chance," he said.

"We have a lot of younger guys like Martinez and Schloithe who keep developing and are taking their game to another level. Hopefully then those guys out injured at the moment can come in around the middle of the year and give us some run and fresh bodies."

One reason Cook remains confident of South Fremantle's season soon turning around also is the fact that they are fitter and stronger in 2013 following the appointment of strength and conditioning coach Mike Vegar.

"Mikey Vegar has been great. We are fit and firing, and we've definitely got the legs this year which was something that had a question mark over it last year," Cook said.

"Our enthusiasm and everything is up and about, and we are still building – we know that. Last year we lost about six games by two goals or less, and we just need to find that consistent football."

By Chris Pike