Evening everyone. Today I submitted my first match previews for the 2013 West Australian Football League season which I am very proud to be a part of once again at the Football Budget. In an effort to spread the word and get my previews out before the weekend games (and to help inspire me to write more often) I shall now include them on here though the italicized parts are my own thoughts and tips, extra bits that I didn’t think would objective enough, staunch Bulldog that I am. So here goes, round one!
West Perth v East Perth
The first derby of the season between West Perth and East Perth will give both sides the opportunity to show their off-season improvement. While the Royals edged out the Falcons for the last spot in last year’s finals, West Perth head into 2013 on an unbeaten preseason record, with wins over South Fremantle and Peel.
The Falcons have lost a lot of experience in Brent LeCras, Dustin Burns, Dion Fleay and Joel Rice, but the additions of Rohan Kerr, Shaun Marusic, Trent Manzone, Steve Potente and James Embley could help bolster the side’s emerging young players.
Throughout their preseason hit outs the Falcons showed high fitness levels with a handball heavy game, and a high mark count which could open up the centre corridor and frustrate slower opponents.
The Royals will look to play on the wings with the addition of Scott Lycett and the returning Brendan Lee, and with much of last year’s dominant forward line returning East Perth will need Paul Johnson, Josh Smith and Craig Wulff to continue to lead from the front to combat the effectiveness of Mark Hutchings, Shane Nelson and Josh Mellington in the middle.
Steven Browne could line up for his 50th game as a Falcon.
West Perth has always been really strong in their conditioning allowing them to keep up with sometimes more talented opponents. Though they will miss LeCras and especially Fleay when it comes to those tougher defensive assignments they have retained enough of their key pieces and their ability to stay in games they have no business being competitive in should get them over the line. The Royals I think may coast a bit this year knowing they have the influx of West Coast players to come next season, though they too have managed to hold on to the players that helped earn them a finals berth and their forwards are some of the best in the league in finding those players in the forward 50 and creating opportunities. This game will probably come down to whether or not the Royals have enough to contain the Hutchings-led midfield without sacrificing any of their offensive momentum at the same time. West Perth with the win though.
Perth v Peel
Perth will want to start the 2013 season strongly against a Peel side that will look to a fresh start with a new coach.
While both the Demons and the Thunder are more familiar with the bottom half of the ladder in recent years, both teams have also shown the ability to develop strong young talent that when consistent are high energy and high scoring.
The Demons will once again start the season with a host of new faces thanks to the departures of many key players, though captain Paul Bevan, Matthew Moody and the returning Chance Bateman have given the Demons some consistency in the midfield during the preseason.
Despite having significant player turn over and a new coach in Cam Shepard the Thunder have recruited strongly, with Cruize Garlett, Jarrhan Jacky and Marlon Motlop set to bolster a young forward half, and Paul Bower and James Hawkesley to strengthen the Thunder’s defence. Jacky and Motlop will give the Demons trouble with their unpredictability in creating scoring opportunities thought the Thunder will need to focus on their improved defence and limit the Demons’ movement through the centre.
Sam Butler could line up for his 50th WAFL game for the Demons.
I’m almost certain there is no game that contains so much potential as the Peel/Perth ones. Perth has been unlucky the last few seasons with developing some really strong young talent but somehow not being able to get them to buy into the Demons’ program long-term. Peel have had similar issues though more so than Perth perhaps has shown the ability to string together some convincing wins, giving Claremont one of their first losses of the year last season after being smashed by them earlier in the year. With the allocation of Fremantle players to come next year, I think the Thunder will be able to integrate them better into their team while at the same time still pushing this season. Though both teams have lost a lot of players in the off-season, Ross Young being the most significant for Perth as well as Leon Davis, I think it will be a matter of who has lost less and retained more of a veteran presence among the playing group. Peel this week in a close one for me.
Claremont v South Fremantle
South Fremantle will look to start their year with a significant mountain to climb in last year’s premiers Claremont.
The two-time reigning premiers have started their 2013 campaign in good form with an undefeated preseason, defeating Swan Districts, East Perth and Subiaco.
The Bulldogs will welcome back Craig White and Reece Adams as well as a host of other recruits, and have built up a young forward line spearheaded by Bernie Naylor medallist Ben Saunders, Andrew McCarrey and new addition Alistair Gillespie. They have also developed a strong front half press; when the ball is in their forward half all 18 players zone that half of the ground forcing opposition turnovers and making it difficult for opposing teams to get the ball out clearly.
Though the Tigers won all but five games on their way to the premiership last year, including victory in both matchups with the Bulldogs, and with limited player turnover they will look to their dominant midfield to set the tone of the game though will need to avoid underestimating a South Fremantle side that while young up front has remained consistent in defence.
Reece Adams, in his first game back for the Bulldogs after taking 2012 off, and Shaun Bewick could suit up for their 50th WAFL games.
In his first year as senior coach I think Paul Hasleby did a good job in light of all the in season departures. I think he and the team will improve this season though facing the defending premiers first off is a tough ask. The Bulldogs have managed to stay in games due to their defensive pressures though often coming at the expense of their own scoring. They have tendency to get out of the gates slow; games where they score high early on they tend to win but a lot of the times they let their opponents dictate the pace of the game leaving them with a significant mountain to climb. One of the most memorable games last season was the 50 point second half (almost exclusively final quarter) comeback at Fremantle Oval against Perth. The Bulldogs can’t afford to dig themselves in to 50 point holes without the offensive weapons to dig themselves out. Claremont will almost certainly hit the ground running; while they have lost the likes of Kane Mitchell, Tom Lee, Gerrick Weedon and Lewis Stevenson, they have recruited well. Mark Seaby will give the Bulldogs trouble in the middle and though it will be interesting to see how the Bulldogs’ defence establishes itself without Toby McGrath’s imposing presence, and between Saunders and co up front and the seemingly ageless Kris Miller leading in the middle they could keep the game close, the Tigers will end up with the win.
East Fremantle v Swan Districts
East Fremantle Oval
East Fremantle start their 60th year of playing at East Fremantle Oval against a Swan Districts side keen to go one step further against the Sharks after last year’s preliminary final loss.
The Sharks have retained the bulk of their grand finalist squad, with Koby Stevens, Luke Weller, Leith Teakle and Russel Gabriel the only losses. Though with Brett Peake and Rhys Cooyou makes their full-time returns to the club alongside defender James Saville the Sharks will be fielding a side with only three changes from their grand final side.
The Swans will be missing big men Josh Roberts and Ash Hansen from the forward line that saw them lose just five games before finals last year, as well as Marlon Motlop and Jarrhan Jacky from an unpredictable centre unit. Though with the addition of Aaron Elari and the return of Travis Casserly, who have both had strong preseason debuts, the Swans will look to use their continued strength up forward to combat the consistency of East Fremantle’s midfield.
Lewis Fasolo is set to play his 50th WAFL game while Elari could make his debut for the Swans in his 50th league game after three seasons at Perth.
I’ve always thought the Sharks rely a lot on their host of AFL allocated players so it will be interesting to see how hard they push it this year before they are reallocated to Peel and East Perth. The Sharks have managed to stay very competitive not just off the back of their AFL players but with guys like Rory O’Brien (who I think should have polled much higher in last year’s Sandover), Richard Hadley and Brock O’Brien they have should they are able to remain consistent despite the AFL ins and outs. With Jacky and Motlop gone, the Swans will have lost some of the creativeness that would have allowed it to combat East Fremantle’s talented midfield. Hansen and Roberts will be significant losses to their signature high scoring forward line, though they will still have size over East Fremantle they will have to be more conscious of finding other scoring outlets. Ultimately though I think the Sharks will be too good through the centre of the ground.
And to end, a little more Harlem Shake that I found that I feel I will only tolerate as I have a soft spot for the WA amateurs.