Credit: Words – Peter Cornwall from the Advertiser
Adam Hartlett has a vision for West Adelaide. And while he admits it’s going to take time to achieve, he doesn’t have to glance back that far to see what it looks like.
Hartlett was a key member of the Bloods’ most recent premiership win, under Mark Mickan in 2015. And he was part of the side Andy Collins built that played in the 2012 grand final.
Hartlett’s vision is “to get the club back to playing consistent finals football”. “I was part of it as a player when we had our last block of successful years under Andy Collins and Mark Mickan when we were super competitive,” he said.
Hartlett isn’t expecting overnight success but he is pleased with the way his men have thrown themselves into an arduous pre-season campaign. “I know it’s going to take a little bit of time but l love our group and how much buy-in l am getting from them,” he said. “We’re young, we’re really inexperienced but they are hanging off everything myself and the assistant coaches (Ryan Anderson, Shane Baldock and Jack Horan) are trying to implement – they see the purpose behind it, which is great.”
Hartlett was a powerful presence at centre half-back in his grand finals with West – and shoring up the defence is his first focus. The Bloods have claimed the past four wooden spoons and last year conceded 87 points a game, clearly more than any other side. “Andy Collins, he was a defensive-minded coach and we strangled teams – l feel like that has to be the starting point, making sure we are limiting opportunities, so that’s been a huge focus for us,” he said, looking back on the Bloods reaching the 2012 grand final after seven years out of the major round. “It came off the back of really hard work and being disciplined and that’s what l’m trying to instil, setting some standards in the way we train and prepare and present ourselves as athletes, getting fitter and stronger … l feel like we’re heading down the right track. “I want us to be off the bottom for starters. If we could win six games this year, l think that would be a pass.”
The Bloods won just two in each of 2019-21 and three last season. But Hartlett feels those numbers weren’t reflective of the talent at the club.. “I feel like we’ve got a really motivated young group, we’ve got some talented players out here – we’ve just got to be really consistent in the way we play and play the way we want to play for longer.”
He has lost some experience and talent with last year’s Neil Kerley Medallist, his brother Hamish Hartlett and skipper Tom Keough along with 200-gamer Logan Hill off the playing list. He’s realised things don’t always go as planned, with new captain Kaiden Brand still suffering from a concussion from last season and sidelined for the start of the year. And two star recruits are also missing. Rhys Nicholls, an explosive half-back/winger, while Sam Frost – “he’s been unbelievable for us this pre-season in terms of his standards and leadership” – broke his collarbone and is out for six weeks.
Hartlett is looking for a big year from Isaac Johnson who, hoping a wretched injury run is behind him, has had a “fantastic” pre-season. And the new coach is thankful 2015 premiership teammate Jono Beech is playing on. “He’s a pro. He’s going to be huge for our young forwards, leading by example the way he prepares himself and how he trains.”