Mentor to add steel for Swifts
A YEAR older and wiser, Swifts player-coach Albert Talipeau hopes the lessons learned in his debut coaching season will show in 2012.
They will have to, given the Bluebirds have lost more than they have gained, on paper at least, in terms of player strength.
Talipeau has all three senior squads (A grade, Reserve grade and under-18s) training together during the pre-season , though he admits only having about 22 players for A and Reserve grade at this point.
About five of the club's A-graders have been working night shifts and should finish soon, making them available to train and play from next month.
Swifts have lost Charlie Tonga to retirement, Michael Pouhila to rugby union, Joel Lennox and Joel Swan to Souths-Logan, Shane and Cameron Picker to Brothers, Jaison Heke to Goodna and Kaustio Magele.
They have picked up former West End pair Vinny Stephan and Shane Williams and several other new faces.
Stephan and Williams were Swifts juniors and played in the Bluebirds team that won the 2002 A-grade grand final, with Williams scoring the match-winning try on the bell.
Talipeau said he will use Williams "mainly at lock".
At this stage, Stephen O'Donohue is the likely five-eighth, though Farran Willett has also been training there.
Talipeau is likely to play halfback with Stephan at hooker.
But with Jayden Callan doing such a good job last year in his debut season, Talipeau will rotate them according to the situation.
"I'm intending Vinny not to be an 80-minute player," Talipeau said.
"When defences get tired, I want to use him as an impact bench player."
Perhaps more importantly than player comings and goings is Talipeau's evolution as a coach.
He discovered the hard way last season that it is no easy job.
This year he is doing things differently. "I haven't been soft with the boys," he said.
"We're training pretty hard.
"I got some programs from the (Sydney) Roosters we are implementing at training.
"There is a lot of ball skills done under fatigue."
Talipeau has also devoted more attention to detail, with new assistant coach Troy Seymour (formerly Swifts' Division 2 coach) making it possible.
"I'm doing more one-on-one coaching," Talipeau said.
"I'm also trying to improve my communication with players.
"There's a real positive vibe.
"I felt last year I was doing a lot on my own. Fitness, ball skills, then trying to do my own training.
"Troy's definitely helped me."