CLAREMONT will be looking to continue its strong form across all West Australian Football League (WAFL) levels as action returns this month, boasting strong squads in each grade. Fourth and third-place finishes over the past two seasons at League level are under Claremont’s belt, but its mission to go at least one better than 2019’s preliminary final berth starts with the huge task of combating reigning premier, Subiaco.
The Reserves side will be made to wait eight rounds before attempting to exact revenge on West Perth, after the Falcons downed them by a goal in last year’s Grand Final – despite having clinched the minor premiership with just one loss to their record. At the junior grade, the Tigers’ Under 18s will hope to defend their 2019 crown, and boast three talented AFL Academy hub members, including Fremantle Next Generation Academy (NGA) hopeful, Joel Western.
Preseason scratch matches have thrown up a mixed bag of results for the Tigers, with the League outfit the only side to scrounge a win. They beat East Fremantle by a goal having made the most of their chances inside attacking 50, while the Reserves went down by 28 points to the Sharks’ 2’s, and the Under 18s got within two points of knocking off South Fremantle. West Perth will be the Tigers’ final preseason opponent across each level, set to face off on July 11 in each club’s last hit-out before season proper kicks off on July 18.
Skipper and fan favourite Kane Mitchell is set to lead the Tigers’ League charge, fresh off a best and fairest winning campaign and backed by the likes of two-time Sandover Medalist Jye Bolton, Declan Mountford, and Tom Curren. Mitchell and Mountford will be joined among the leadership ranks by Anton Hamp (co-vice-captain), and Hayden Busher and Ryan Lim, completing a five-man group. It is that hardened midfield core which is set to help the Tigers thrive in their pursuit for WAFL glory, aided by the ruck craft of 202cm bigman Jeremy Goddard, and the addition of delisted Docker, Ryan Nyhuis.
A blow for the club on the eve of the season has been a serious knee injury to defender, Jack Beeck, who will miss the entire year as a result. But his absence and some list movement at the end of last will see opportunities arise for young players, with the likes of Jack Buller and Tom Baldwin set to enter the senior bracket from Colts level. Cal England and Jake Anderson are also among the promising types who look likely to develop well with some more experience in 2020, while Alex Manuel is a player who may feature having missed a large chunk of 2019.
Western is the clear leader among the Under 18 crop, and will be hoping to impress enough to warrant selection by Fremantle, or a bid from elsewhere come draft time. The mercurial 172cm hopeful is a freak athlete, and ranked among the top 10 for Western Australia in all three vertical jump tests, as well as third in the 20-metre sprint. Able to play off flanks at either end of the field or run through the engine room, Western is a terrific prospect and among those who will be looking to lead Claremont to back-to-back premierships.
A 202cm ruck Kalin Lane is another who is likely to feature among the state side, and he is a terrific story as somewhat of a latecomer to the sport – or at least this level. He featured among the yearly academy intake despite running out for just one Colts game in 2019, and is joined in the hub by bottom-ager, Jacob van Rooyen.
With some good talent coming from the ground, up and established leaders set to continue their search for WAFL gold at senior level, fans will be feeling good about where Claremont sits coming into season 2020.
Picture: The West Australian