2021 WAFL Women’s Round 1 preview: Reigning premiers to host Sharks in opening game

PEEL Thunder will kick-start its premiership defence against perennial challengers, East Fremantle in a blockbuster standalone Saturday evening clash at David Grays Arena tomorrow. Starting at 5pm local time on Saturday (8pm AEDST), the Thunder will be keen to start off the season on the right note, whilst the Sharks will enjoy, for the first time in a while, not being the hunted and instead having the first crack at their successor.

Speaking to Peel Thunder coach Steve Markham during the week, the team will again be incredibly strong defensively, as it was last year. Though they also have plenty of talent up forward.

“I think our backline was strong last year, we obviously lose Demi Liddle and Shannon Whale but the replacements in Kerrilee Brown and a couple coming through is going to be really strong, it’s going to be hard to score against. “So I think that will be a real strength, and with Ella Roberts up forward and KP (Kira Phillips), Jaide Briggs I think our forward line looks pretty potent, but I think our defence will be rock solid.”

For East Fremantle, talented young ruck Rosie Walsh said the team as a whole was looking on improving their skills under new coach, and former Subiaco mentor, Simon Quayle.

“Hitting those targets, working on our kicking, on our handpasses, just those really basic skills that those little things that will get you to where you want to be,” she said. “Mia Schleicher, it’s her first year playing League as well, she played Colts last year and I definitely think she is a gun to look out for.  “Mylee Leitch – she has come up from the Colts, she has gone into the League team, she’s a small forward, really kick and knows how to put the ball through the sticks, she is pretty good.”

PEEL THUNDER COACH STEVE MARKHAM:

“We’ve done a really big preseason, the girls really didn’t have much time off, they only had about six weeks, so for some of them that week was good for them,” he said. “I think we’re in a pretty good place, you never know where the opposition is at, but playing East Freo as the premiers the year before, if you can challenge East Freo at any time you’re going pretty well so we’re excited to have them first up.”

EAST FREMANTLE RUCK ROSIE WALSH:

“We’re working on switching lanes and just playing fast,” she said. “Obviously not too fast, but when we take a mark to push back and only kick it to when they know they have that separation from their defender, but everything else is working really fast. “So switching lanes, working down the corridor, and we know that Peel like to play really good body, so they will not let you get that separation, so we’re working really hard on getting that separation, especially in the forward line and keeping that body in the backline, so not letting them go.”

Both Peel Thunder and East Fremantle are strong one-on-one and like to move the ball quickly, which makes this the match of the round. While the Thunder will be missing some of their premiership talent, the Sharks will also be without crucial AFL Women’s experience. It all adds up to a fascinating battle and one not to be missed.

In the other two matches, reigning grand finalists Subiaco travel to Fremantle Community Bank Oval where they take on a vastly different looking South Fremantle. The Bulldogs did not manage to grab a win in their inaugural season last year, but they showed promise towards the end of the season, and have brought in a ton of experience for 2021. Bulldogs coach Beau McCormack said they would continue the brand of football from last year and build on it this season.

“I think our brand football we set out last year to play a brand football of high impact football and being known for a hard hitting team, and I think we, we definitely set that example last year and it’s something that we take on and have taken in again to this year, as I said, you know, tackling pressure from my point of view is a huge part of the game and we don’t have it, we get it back,” he said.

“We’ve got some really good runners, that are in the side, just trying to get it out and quick movement of the football from, one end of the ground to the other sort of fast flowing, free flowing football.”

Subiaco will head in with a new coach too after Michael Farmer took over the role from Amy Lavell this off-season. The Lions are preparing for another tilt at the flag after narrowly falling short in the 2021 decider.

Meanwhile Swan Districts will be hoping to back up a successful year where they not only made finals, but had a number of players drafted in Mikayla Morrison, Shanae Davison and Mikayla Hyde. The Swans take on Claremont in the opening round at Steel Blue Oval, with the Tigers hoping to improve on their narrow finals-missing campaign last year. With the likes of Ella Smith and Jess Low among those standing out last year, the Tigers should be another tough team in 2021.

Swan Districts will welcome a new head coach in Adam Dancey for the opening game, with team manager Jo Taylor excited about what the team could produce in 2021.

“We have a really young list again, we’ve got some more youngsters through, which is something that we’ve always sort of strived to do,” she said. “So we’re excited to see what they can do as well.”

Claremont coach Andrew Di Loreto has focused on areas that the Tigers could improve in season 2021 after narrowly missing out on finals last year.

“We had some areas we wanted to focus on in terms of evolving the way that we play,” Di Loreto said. “We’ve obviously got a bit of a shorter run up but with all that in mind I’m really happy with the commitment level and the development of our girls, I’m really keen to see them in action and obviously have a test and see where we’re at in a couple of weeks.”

WAFL ROUND 1 MATCHES:

Peel Thunder vs. East Fremantle @ David Grays Arena, Sat Feb 20, 5pm
South Fremantle vs. Subiaco @ Fremantle Community Bank Oval, Sun Feb 21, 1pm
Swan Districts vs. Claremont @ Steel Blue Oval, Sun Feb 21, 2pm

Picture credit: WAFL

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