Pride is the overriding feeling when Sydney Swans development coach Jeremy Laidler reflects on his first season at the helm.
The former Swan, Blue and Cat worked with the NEAFL team as Tadhg Kennelly’s right-side man in season 2018, before this year stepping up to the hot seat and steering Sydney to a preliminary final.
Laidler’s first season in charge rounded out on Sunday as the Swans fell to a 50-point loss to the Brisbane Lions at South Pine Sports Complex.
The Sydney mentor says he can draw plenty of positives from the 2019 campaign.
“We’ve just been expecting our Academy players to play their role and we’re pretty young with our AFL-listed players as well. So we’ve been throwing them in the deep end but they’ve learned so much over the year and developed so much as players from that,” Laidler told SwansTV after the preliminary final.
“You can look at that as a negative because we haven’t had many AFL-listed players in the twos, but you can also look at it as a positive because we’re throwing these guys in the deep end and they’ve got to swim. Justin McInerney, James Bell, Zac Foot, James Rowbottom – they’ve relished the opportunity to play NEAFL footy this year. I’ve made some of them captain for some weeks and that’s helped them grow as people as well.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the group and everyone that comes in and plays has a great attitude, which just makes my job so much easier.”
Laidler played 87 AFL games for Geelong, Carlton and Sydney before transitioning straight into coaching after retiring at the end of the 2017 season.
Lloyd Perris was Laidler’s NEAFL assistant this year, returning to the club after a three-year stint as a rookie over the 2013, 2014 and 2015 seasons.
Laidler says he’ll always have fond memories of season 2019.
“It’s quite challenging but I’ve relished and enjoyed every single moment. I’m young as well and to have such a young group I really thrive off,” Laidler said.
“There are challenges and ups and downs along the course, but you learn from that as a coach as well as a person. It’s been such a good year.
“The buy-in from the players has helped so much and Lloydy Perris – he does so much work behind closed doors and puts up with everything coming down from the coaches’ box.
“We’ve got a really good relationship. It makes my job a lot easier when the young boys are taking part and doing their job on the field.”