Friday, October 9, 2020 - 9:15 PM by Chris Pike

TODD Curley became a premiership coach as South Fremantle defeated Claremont at Fremantle Community Bank Oval by three points in the 2020 WAFL Grand Final, and he had plenty to reflect upon but really what he is most happy about is to give the players the chance to celebrate.

QUESTION: You know what this feels like as a player Todd, but that was 17 years ago the last time you experienced it, what's this feeling like as a coach?
Thanks for reminding me it was 17 years ago. I'm just so happy for the players more than anything. I've been able to experience it as a player so I know how special it is and we've got some boys here who have been with me for the whole six years. But they have shown amazing resilience and not everything has worked out perfectly for us while we've been here, but they keep fronting up, digging in and trying to do the right thing. I'm just so happy for them. It was a pretty good game and both teams had periods where they looked like they were in control of the game, and it was a tricky breeze to kick into and we both probably missed some opportunities. But once it gets to that last 15 minutes there's not much you can do, you just hope that the things you've trained for and prepared for work out. I'm just over the moon for them.

Q: It was such a frantic last quarter but in the end it was your two key forwards Mason Shaw and Jimmy Miller who stood up to kick the winning goals?
A: Zac Strom stood up as well to be honest and I thought out three big boys Zac, Jimmy especially playing high and Mason were able to take contested and clutch marks at times, and kick those goals. Mason has copped a bit of flack the last few weeks for not kicking goals but those within the four walls know how enormously he has improved this year in his ability to compete, halve contests and keep balls alive when it hasn’t been in on his terms. He did exactly the same today and when he gets his chance, he's a pretty good kick. I'm just really pleased for him and for all of them to be honest. It has been a long build with three prelims and two Grand Finals so to finally win one, I'm just rapt for them.

Q: You mentioned Zac Strom and we've talked about him a bit this year, but he continues to grow with his overall game and he must have gone close to being best on ground?
He has had an outstanding year and to have a guy of his size with his speed and endurance to be able to play as a wingmen, half-forward, key-forward, ruckman and even down back if you need is pretty incredible. He's just such a selfless person who works so hard and he's just a great person so I'm really happy for him. He comes from a great family and it's fantastic for him to play in a premiership with his brother.

Q: What about Brock Higgins, he has carried an enormous load in the ruck in your whole time as coach here just about and has done such an incredible job. He did that again in the Grand Final?
He might not be that big height-wise, but geez his heart is big enough and he just refused to give in again. He gave us first use, shuffled it forward and he did miss three games when he did his hammy in the middle of the year. There's no doubt losing the second semi probably helped him and he needed a bit more footy. He plays at his best when he's done a bit of work but his heart is just enormous and I'm really pleased for him. He's worked so hard and he moved club to get an opportunity and he has led our ruck now for a long time. It certainly helped him this year having a bit more support with Zac and Jimmy, but he was pretty good for us today.

Q: What about the performance of your midfield to do so well against what is Claremont's strength without your best ball winner of the season?
A: They were really disappointed after the second semi as a midfield group and we'd done so much work, but full credit to them for the work they put in and that goes all the way back to the COVID shutdown. They have been a real strength for us and the data that we got from that second semi was that they just didn’t work or run enough which I think is what stung them the most. There was a lot of talk about Claremont and what they did to us in that game, but internally we respected that they are a really good team, but we've been a good team for a long time as well. We had a pretty good record against them and we've now won five of the last six, and 10 of the last 13, so while we were really poor in the second semi and they were really good, we thought we could turn it around. But to lose Jake with 10 minutes to go last week was a big challenge and he has been our best mid for a while. It was a big challenge for them but I thought they really stood up and to see Jake walk into the rooms after the game to celebrate after not being able to come to the game so close to his surgery, was pretty special.

Q: What do you think will mean to the footy club to win a premiership at your home ground in front of an atmosphere like that?
A: To be honest I think having the game here was probably bigger for the community and the City of Fremantle. It's been a tough year for everyone so I think that's probably the biggest boost out of it. But for us as the footy department, coaches and players, we don’t really care where we play because we feel with our supporter base that it would be a South Freo house whether it was here, Leederville or anywhere else. Certainly it's fantastic at your home ground and it's probably a one off which will never happen again, but for our footy club to have 2138 financial members in a season where a lot of those people had signed without any guarantee of any games, it's just outstanding. I'm really happy for the volunteers, supporters, admin staff, assistant coaches, players that weren’t here today but have been for the last five or six years, everyone has played their part. I'm just happiest for the players because I know what's ahead of them and that's a lot of celebrating.

Q: It's a remarkable story and journey for you as a coach too. You started coaching at West Perth back in 2006 and got to a preliminary final, then you lost three prelims here at South Fremantle and now you've become a premiership coach. What is the feeling like?
A: Steve Wasley is here with me today and he was at West Perth with me in 2006 as well so there are people I've shared this journey with for a long time. It is reward for everything you do and for your family in regards to the time it takes away from being with them. But to be honest, it really is more about the players. I know how much I love the blokes I played in premierships with and how much I love spending time with those guys so now these blokes get to share it. We go to reunions now and this year was the 25th anniversary of the 1995 premiership and John Dimmer came along as our coach, and we love having him there. Hopefully in 25 years these blokes will love having me along as well but it's a credit to all the off-field staff, board and admin. We've had some tough losses along the way, but as a footy club we've shown enormous resilience to keep buttering up and going again. We've just kept getting back on the horse to keep working hard and I'm especially happy for the players.

Q: You dedicated it to your mum on stage, your wife and kids are here with you, your brother was watching intently while stuck over in Sydney, how special is it to achieve this with your family with you?
A: They ride the highs and lows with you as much as you do. You come home grumpy and tired a lot, and you spend a lot of time away from them because of the footy club. I actually just spoke with Adam on the phone and he watched the game in Sydney, and mum and dad have been along this journey from whenever I started as a kid. They know how much you are invested in it, but so are the players and that's why it's a great place to be. That's why I keep coming back because it's a great place and I love being here. It's going to be a good week now.

Q: When you get the chance to go into the room where it's just the players and coaching staff for a few minutes, is that the moment you most treasure amongst all the chaos after a premiership?
A: It's funny, Blayne Wilson just told me now he realises why we are doing this and I told him that he'll forget most of everything that happens afterwards, but that one beer for that few minutes with just the players and coaches is what you'll remember for the rest of your life. That's a special time. There are times when after that we get dragged apart and there are other people around, but that time we had one beer just as a playing group and the coaches that you'll always remember. We would love everyone to be able to play, but only 22 of them could and that's the chance to celebrate what we achieved together.