Back on track: Matthew Scarlett and Cameron Mooney at Western Bulldogs training.COACH Brendan McCartney hopes the development of the Western Bulldogs’ novice forwards and defenders will be hastened by the recruitment of recently retired Geelong greats Matthew Scarlett and Cameron Mooney to his coaching panel.
McCartney’s previous development role at the Cats was instrumental in persuading Scarlett and Mooney to commit to part-time specialist coaching roles at the Bulldogs in 2013.
On Wednesday, Scarlett and Mooney completed their maiden training sessions at Whitten Oval. They joined a panel that included not only McCartney but also former Cats teammate Steven King, the midfield and stoppages coach.
While McCartney regularly highlighted the Bulldogs’ lack of playing experience throughout his first year at the helm, he agreed that was most stark at either end of the ground, which was exacerbated by full-back Brian Lake’s trade to Hawthorn.
“We’re certainly building, at present, a new defensive group and a new forward-line group,” the coach said.
“Probably what’s been lost in the past 12 months [in the public analysis of the Bulldogs] has been Barry Hall’s retirement, injuries to really key players like [Dale] Morris and Tom Williams.
“The upside to that is we know we’re teaching them well and that we’re educating them the right way, so the end result will be favourable. The younger players, in particular, are so excited to have them [Scarlett and Mooney] here.”
McCartney said the limited coaching roles – each will spend one day a week at Whitten Oval – suited the club, as well as Scarlett and Mooney, and was not simply a compromise to get them on board in any capacity.
“The one thing you can’t have is too many good people in a footy club,” he said.
“Both Matt and Cam are good friends of mine . . . and are probably putting their toe in the water [to determine] if coaching interests them.
“It’s a good way to start, where you’re here one day a week and you’re not involved in that day-to-day grind of football.”
Mooney said he was confident that he would have a positive impact at the club, especially since he used to be a key forward and full-time Bulldogs forwards coach Shannon Grant was a smaller forward who relied more on pace and guile.
“It’s pretty good, every now and then, to hear another voice, to get some other ideas,” he said.
As part of the role, Mooney, who retired in 2011 and whose subsequent first year in the media was notable for his frank appraisal of players, has been assured he will not be expected to curtail his commentary on Bulldogs players.
“That’s why I was lucky to have a great mate [McCartney] who understood where I was heading with my career, and also understood I was keen to get my foot in the door as a coach,” he said.
While Scarlett was typically reluctant to discuss his new role – he last month eschewed a press conference when he ended his revered career after 279 matches – Mooney insisted the three-time premiership player would have no qualms conveying instructions and advice to the Bulldogs’ young defenders.
“You’re talking about one of the greatest full-backs to ever play and, without doubt, one of the smartest men I’ve ever come across on a football field with his direction and knowledge of the game,” Mooney said. “While he’s not a person to stand in front of 1000 people and give his overview of the game, one-on-one or in a small group of defenders he’s absolutely brilliant with what he says and how he says it.”
The Bulldogs’ defensive stocks have received a boost, with injury-plagued Morris this week completing a five-kilometre run and, significantly, pulling up well without any repercussions from the broken leg that sidelined him for the entire 2012 season.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs also announced that promising forward Zephaniah Skinner had quit the club and effectively retired after choosing to remain in Noonkanbah, a remote community east of Broome in Western Australia.
“We really didn’t want to lose Zephi as he is a well-liked person here, but we respect his decision to return home to his family,” list manager Jason McCartney said.
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