THE SECOND best side of the last five years, and last year’s runner-up, South Fremantle will be looking to finally emerge from Subiaco’s shadow in 2020. Despite consistently finishing in the top two or three spots on the West Australian Football League (WAFL) ladder, Souths are looking to take the next step after a maiden Grand Final appearance since their 2009 premiership, last season. The Bulldogs look to have added further talent to their already strong list and look poised to present the biggest threat to Subi’s dominance yet again.
South Fremantle have added some big names this off-season, and there is perhaps none bigger in the game than Rioli. Ben Rioli will be the latest to come down and join the Red-V to play WAFL football following brothers Shannon and Dean, father Sebastian and uncle Maurice. If he can have anywhere near that impact he’ll be a huge weapon off half back. They’ll also benefit from the return of former number four AFL Draft pick Jarrod Pickett after his stints at GWS and Carlton.
Locally the Bulldogs have snagged Perth goalkicker Cody Ninyette, however the livewire forward could be subject to availability issues this season due to work commitments. The return of defender Steve Edwards from Albany, who had a very successful stint at the club between 2017 and 2019, is also sure to delight Souths fans. The Southerners will be disappointed to lose Sean Bewick, Adam McIntosh and Adam Verrier this season, with all three deciding to retire from League football.
The above recruits will be key in determining whether the club can make up the 96-point difference between them and the reigning premiers demonstrated on Grand Final day. They’ll join established stars such as perennial Sandover Medal contender Haiden Schloithe and star forward Mason Shaw in shaping the Bulldogs’ fortunes this season. Other key players at coach Todd Curley’s disposal include former Docker Nick Suban, captain Dylan Main, and Kade Stewart.
The Bulldogs had a disappointing season in the two’s last year, with an eighth-place finish the result of just five wins. That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of talent in the Reserves side to draw upon with talented young players such as Kyle Hamersley, Matthew Ward, and Zane Sumich all plying their trade in the seconds last season. Curley will be hoping players of their like will be able to make the step up and apply real pressure for League positions.
The young Bulldogs also didn’t hit the heights of their senior counterparts last season with a last-placed finish last year. Even still players such as Manfred Kelly, Jack Musika and Toby McQuilkin put up solid numbers and have been added to the senior squad this year. No Southerners were part of the WA under 18s team last season but in AFL Academy members Mitchell Brown, Ira Jetta and Shannon Neale, they’ll be hoping that changes. A two-point scratch match win against reigning premiers Claremont shows promising signs for the coming season.
South Fremantle still look the most likely to end Subiaco’s stranglehold at the top of the ladder this season and will be hoping that the class in their squad filters down throughout the grades. Better seasons this year in both the Colts and Reserves would be a strong indicator that League success is not far around the corner. A first round derby against East Fremantle will be a good indication if this classy squad is ready for the pressure of a condensed season and the intensity of finals.
Picture: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian