A look at how the teams are shap­ing up

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Ali­cia Per­era and Ben Leahy

It’s foot­ball sea­son again as the North Pil­bara Foot­ball League kicks off the first of its 2016 matches this week­end.

Teams have had to do with­out a pre-sea­son tour­na­ment this year, leav­ing the com­pe­ti­tion wide open for any­one to make their mark on in the weeks to come.

The Pil­bara News and North West Tele­graph scoped out how the teams are shap­ing up.

South Hed­land Swans

Last year’s pre­miers South Hed­land Swans pro­vided the 2015 NPFL sea­son with a fairy­tale fin­ish as they ended a 19-year drought by tak­ing home the premier­ship cup in front of a packed home crowd.

Long blessed with some of the NPFL’s fastest and most skil­ful ath­letes, the Swans found an edge last year un­der new coach Troy Melville by com­bin­ing their raw tal­ent with grit and de­ter­mi­na­tion.

The chal­lenge for Melville and his play­ers is whether they can stay mo­ti­vated to put in the hard work or whether they re­turn to past years when lapses in dis­ci­pline pre­vented them from reach­ing their po­ten­tial.

Swans co-cap­tain Jeffrey Bann said based on the team’s scratch match last week, the South Hed­land play­ers were al­ready run­ning hard as they used the hit-out to work on their struc­tures, game plan and in­ter­changes.

In los­ing a few league play­ers from last year, but also gain­ing promis­ing re­cruits, he said the team en­tered 2016 con­fi­dent.

“The old master­mind him­self Troy Melville is good the way he ex­plains footy and the way we play to his struc­tures,” Bann said.

“Ev­ery­thing down to how he has helped the ju­niors had helped bond the team to­gether.”

Dampier Sharks

Dampier Sharks had a strong sea­son last year and were the mi­nor pre­miers un­til reach­ing the grand fi­nal, where they were out­classed by the Swans and forced to set­tle for the ti­tle of run­ners-up. Coach Kris­tian Dic­ton said the fi­nals loss had been tough on the whole team, but the sea­son had over­all been a pos­i­tive one.

“It was pretty heart-break­ing, but say­ing that we im­proved from the year be­fore,” he said.

“Def­i­nitely be­ing in the grand fi­nal was an im­prove­ment from the year be­fore.”

He said the team had gone through a “big change” los­ing and gain­ing play­ers and how the play­ers would come to­gether and fare this sea­son was “pretty hard to tell at this point”, but, over­all, club morale was strong.

Wick­ham Wolves

The Wolves had a solid 2015 sea­son with a third-placed fin­ish and a spot in the pre­lim­i­nary fi­nals.

Pres­i­dent Paul Lott said the team were pleased with their ef­fort last year but hoped to re-group and take it even fur­ther this year.

“Ba­si­cally, we’ve got the same out­fit as last year,” he said.

“They’re a very young, fast, fit team, who are prob­a­bly a lit­tle bit more ex­pe­ri­enced than last year. So we hope that holds us in good stead for the end of the year.

“We haven’t got a player who you would call re­ally dom­i­nant, just an over­all bal­anced team.”

Lott said the squad’s pre-sea­son game against ex­pe­ri­enced “Leg­ends” play­ers with the club had helped to sharpen up their skills and they were look­ing for­ward to a “good close sea­son”.

Port Hed­land Rovers

Peren­nial NPFL pow­er­houses Port Hed­land Rovers are known for turn­ing up on grand fi­nal day af­ter claim­ing the 2011-13 pre­mier­ships and los­ing the 2014 de­cider.

That made 2015 even harder to stom­ach for the league’s high­achiev­ers af­ter they were bun­dled out early in the fi­nals.

With the Rovers re­serves side also per­form­ing be­low the Bull­dogs’ nor­mal stan­dards, the club’s lack of depth led to the league team turn­ing in in­con­sis­tent per­for­mances through­out 2015.

Coach Greg Mas­trangelo ac­knowl­edged his side lost a host of play­ers, who left town last year be­cause of the eco­nomic down­turn, but said 2016 was look­ing much bet­ter. “We’ve man­aged to secure high-qual­ity play­ers who will add to our mix of lo­cal guys in an ef­fort to give 2016 a bet­ter shake,” he said.

“Cer­tainly last year, the Swans played a fast and open brand of foot­ball. “We have man­aged to pick up a cou­ple of guys with leg speed, which will help us match up bet­ter against those fast run­ning sides.

“They should mix well with the solid ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers we’ve had for a num­ber of years now.”

Kar­ratha Kats

2014 pre­miers the Kats started well last sea­son but ended up with a fifth fin­ish on the league ta­ble af­ter suf­fer­ing a spate of in­juries to­wards the end of the sea­son.

It was left to the re­serves to claim grand fi­nal vic­tory for the club.

Coach David van Raalte, who over­saw the re­serves last year, said they had a strong start­ing out­fit this sea­son and so far there was no sign of a re­peat of their for­mer bad luck.

“We’re look­ing re­ally good,” he said. “We’ve got a few new re­cruits who look like they’ll be quite handy. So we’ve adapted.”

“We’re work­ing on a new game plan to try and suit the type of team that we have, and things are pretty good at the moment.”

Kar­ratha Falcons

2015 was not the Falcons’ year, with the league team fin­ish­ing at the bot­tom of the lad­der with only three wins to their name.

How­ever, coach Greg Townsend, who led the club to pre­mier­ships in 2010 and 2011, said they were ready for a turn­around af­ter a dis­ap­point­ing few years.

“I’m pretty buoy­ant about our chances at the premier­ship this year,” he said.

“We’ve got a fairly young squad and we’re go­ing through a bit of a tran­si­tion as well. So it’s a bit of a dif­fer­ent feel for the club this year.

“We’ve got a lot of se­nior play­ers who have been for the club for quite some time and a pretty strong lead­er­ship group.

“But we’ve also wel­comed in quite a few new faces this year which is good to have around.

“We’re pretty keen to im­prove on our pre­vi­ous po­si­tion so we’ll be work­ing hard.”

Pic­tures: Peter de Krui­jff

Dampier Sharks' Chris Wailu grabs the con­tested mark against Kar­ratha Falcons last year.

Dampier Sharks’ Chris Wailu grabs a mark against the Kats.

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