'Last year ... counts for nothing': Dockers driven by 2020 disappointment

FREMANTLE coach Trent Cooper says his players need to focus on the future to stay ahead of their AFLW competition, rather than looking back in anger at a missed opportunity in 2020. 

The Dockers were the competition trendsetters in 2020 with a fast, high-intensity game style that had them well-placed for a shot at the club's first premiership when the season was shut down because of COVID-19.  

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Cooper warned that the competition would have studied the way the Dockers played and said attacking the new season with a chip on their shoulders would not be a beneficial attitude. 

"Last year in some ways counts for nothing. But what it does give us, we think, is really good momentum, which will carry into this year," Cooper said on Wednesday. 

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"We've got a really resilient group who have taken on quite a few challenges in different areas of their lives. 

"I don't think a chip on their shoulder is something they will play with. They just want to get going and start again. 

"What we do know is other sides will study what we did and will come after us."

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Cooper said some of his players had launched into a hard training phase immediately after last season, given the motivation generated by the abrupt end to their 6-0 season. 

The Dockers had to "wind the girls back" before building them back up in preparation for the new campaign. 

"There was a lot of drive to really perform and probably for the first month after the season some of the girls were training way too hard," Cooper said.  

"We wound that back and then wound them back up again. 

"What that gives us is momentum, but like every other team we're still 0-0."

Cooper expected the Dockers would confront a new level of tackling and intensity from opponents in 2021, and teams would also seek to clog their talented forward line and blunt their damaging speed. 

Training to maintain their advantage as the competition's leading tacklers had been a focus over the pre-season. 

"Overall it's will and desire, and Kiara Bowers leads that for us," the coach said. 

"She's next level with her tackling and it's great when your best player does that because then everyone else jumps onboard."

Star forward Gemma Houghton said the Dockers were ready to go ahead of Sunday's season-opener against Greater Western Sydney at Fremantle Oval and had a "fire in the belly" regardless of how 2020 ended. 

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"It was a raw emotion but after that we were quick to realise it was a lot bigger than football, going into lockdown and realising the stuff around us is a lot more important," Houghton said.

"But I think it's given us a lot of time to reflect on that and get certain priorities in order and that makes us go into every game not taking it for granted."