Teams pre­pare for new sea­son

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Ali­cia Per­era and Tay­lar Amonini

A new sea­son of the North Pil­bara Foot­ball League kicks off this week­end and teams have al­ready spent months of train­ing get­ting ready to take their best shot at the premier­ship.

With a change of coaches at all but one of the league sides and the usual crop of new play­ers, 2017 could well be a sea­son of shake­ups.

The Pil­bara News and North West Tele­graph took a look at how the teams are shap­ing up and what fans can ex­pect for the sea­son ahead. Kar­ratha Kats

Last year’s pre­miers the Kar­ratha Kats claimed the flag af­ter a re­sound­ing 34-point win in their grand fi­nal against the South Hed­land Swans, de­fy­ing the ex­pec­ta­tions of most af­ter fin­ish­ing third at the end of the sea­son.

New coach John Welling­ton, who has a back­ground in Vic­to­rian dis­trict foot­ball, said the Kats were start­ing the new sea­son con­fi­dently with “im­mac­u­late” skills and their en­thu­si­asm for an­other premier­ship was high.

“The boys seem very hun­gry,” he said. “They’re com­ing off a grand fi­nal. Usu­ally peo­ple say you can have a grand fi­nal han­gover but I think com­ing from third last year in a six-team com­pe­ti­tion, it was a big thing for them to win that and I think it showed them what they can do.”

The club has also seen min­i­mal player losses and their num­bers have swelled, with 50 to 70 reg­u­larly turn­ing up for train­ing through­out the pre-sea­son.

Welling­ton said the Kats’ large play­ing num­bers also put the

re­serves in good stead by giv­ing them more player op­tions. South Hed­land Swans

De­spite their stel­lar per­for­mance in the 2016 NPFL sea­son, the South Hed­land Swans are off to a shaky start this year af­ter strug­gling to ac­quire a coach.

Though for­mer coach Troy Melville will still be­ing ac­tively in­volved in the sea­son, work com­mit­ments have left him un­able to con­tinue as coach and se­nior play­ers Steele Viti and Zarak “Cookie” Bin­saad have in­stead stepped up to share the role.

Club pres­i­dent Barry Taylor said while play­ers and mem­bers’ work com­mit­ments had been the big­gest dif­fi­cul­ties for the club this year, he was still con­fi­dent the team could pull through and take away the premier­ship this year af­ter miss­ing out last sea­son.

“The Swans are go­ing to be a fairly young side this year — we have a num­ber of Hed­land Reds play­ers step­ping up from the Ju­niors un­der-18s to join the team, so we’re quite ex­cited about that,” he said.

“We’ve lost a lot of vet­er­ans from last year’s team who have ei­ther re­tired or are un­able to play due to work com­mit­ments. How­ever, it all bodes well for the fu­ture of the club with the younger kids car­ry­ing on the flag in the com­ing years.”

Taylor said the Swans were also keen to de­velop their new club­house with sup­port from Fortes­cue.

“We’re cur­rently in the devel­op­ment stage with Town of Port Hed­land, so fin­gers crossed all things go to plan and hope­fully it will be ready by June,” he said. Wick­ham Wolves

Wick­ham’s painfully close pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal exit at the hands of

the Kats last year came as a shock af­ter an ex­tremely strong 2016 sea­son, in which they trans­formed into a fast, at­tack­ing team who won the mi­nor premier­ship and were the main chal­lengers of other team-to-beat, South Hed­land Swans.

As the only club to have re­tained their league coach this sea­son and with a lot of re­turn­ing play­ers, pres­i­dent Paul Lott said he was “qui­etly con­fi­dent” Wick­ham could main­tain their win­ning form while go­ing one bet­ter this year.

“We’ve got a lit­tle bit of a dif­fer­ent squad be­cause peo­ple leave and re­tire, but we be­lieve we should have enough depth to be very com­pet­i­tive,” he said.

“We have a lot of the same young play­ers that are just that lit­tle bit bet­ter now, and we’ve got a cou­ple of taller play­ers that have come back this year, which we prob­a­bly lacked a lit­tle bit last year.”

Lott said the young Wolves side had learnt from the hard ex­pe­ri­ence of los­ing the pre­lim­i­nary, giv­ing them an ex­tra edge this sea­son.

“You must have that ex­pe­ri­ence with the young play­ers, as well as a fair bit of skill and pace, and that’s what we’re go­ing to use against the other teams,” he said.

Wick­ham’s re­serves in­clude a lot of new play­ers but were also ex­pected to be com­pet­i­tive. Port Hed­land Rovers

His­tor­i­cal pow­er­house team Port Hed­land Rovers hov­ered around the mid­dle of the lad­der in 2016 but are set for a come­back this sea­son, ac­cord­ing to club pres­i­dent Mal Olive, who says new coach Nat Field­ing will bring fresh eyes and new life into the play­ing group.

Field­ing said he would bring his own style and game plan into this sea­son and hope­fully help bring the Rovers back to glory.

“Be­ing a bit of an in­dus­trial town, it brings new faces all the time, so it al­ways brings good change and kick-starts a few guys back into gear and we’ll show that off in the field,” he said.

Im­pressed with the lat­est scratchie be­tween the two Hed­land teams, Field­ing said he was keen to see what the team could do against their op­po­nents to the south.

“You can train and train but at the end of the day it’s what you put into ac­tion out on the field,” he said.

“There’s a lot of po­ten­tial there and it will all just de­pend on who is avail­able on the day to get the best side we can out there on the field.”

Cel­e­brat­ing their 50th an­niver­sary this year, the old­est club in the league will be hold­ing their an­niver­sary func­tion in July and say they are look­ing for­ward to round 1 next week. Dampier Sharks

Dampier sol­diered through a

dif­fi­cult 2016 sea­son de­spite fluc­tu­at­ing player num­bers and man­aged to get four wins un­der their belts while also chal­leng­ing a lot of op­po­nents.

How­ever, the club’s hopes for the new sea­son will be high with the ar­rival of for­mer Bris­bane Lions dual premier­ship player and as­sis­tant coach Beau McDon­ald in the coach­ing seat.

McDon­ald said the club’s pre­sea­son train­ing, which in­cluded a game against Ex­mouth ear­lier in month, had been promis­ing and team morale was strong.

“We’re pretty happy with we’re were at — the ca­ma­raderie is good, and we’re keen to get out there and see where we’re at,” he said.

“I’m try­ing to bring the things I’ve learned over the years to the team as well.

“There are some things that I want to be our strengths. We want to be a team that has a strong de­fen­sive ethic and a team that work hard for each other, and not a team of in­di­vid­u­als.”

McDon­ald said he hoped morale also car­ried over to the re­serves side this sea­son. Kar­ratha Fal­cons

The Fal­cons’ league team is com­ing off two con­sec­u­tive sea­sons of scant wins when in­juries and com­pet­ing com­mit­ments took their toll.

How­ever, there were bright spots in their dra­matic im­prove­ment in form late last sea­son and the re­serves’ grand fi­nal win, which showed the depth of tal­ent at the club.

New league coach Cameron Ling, who coached the re­serves to suc­cess last year, said the team had gained a lot of youth who were were hun­gry to break through this year.

“We’ve lost a few play­ers, but the squad is mostly younger boys that have come up through un­der-18s and re­serves last year,” he said.

“They’re re­ally com­pet­i­tive, so we’ve got high hopes this year.

“We want to im­prove on the last two years that haven’t gone so well, so we’re just look­ing for­ward to the new sea­son.”

He said this year’s team had been hard at work over the pre-sea­son, and were raring to put their skills to the test.

“The boys have re­ally worked hard. They just need to to reap some re­wards,” he said.

“We up­set a few teams last year ... so the boys knew they could do it, it was just a mat­ter of putting our struc­tures and game plans to­gether.”

Fal­cons club­man Brett Davies has stepped up as the new coach for the re­serves, where the fo­cus will be on de­vel­op­ing more young play­ers ready and able to join the league side in fu­ture.

Pic­ture: Tom Zau­mayr

Sev­eral Sharks play­ers get up for the ball in their of­fen­sive 50m.

Pic­ture: Pam Har­ris

Kar­ratha Kats en­joy the spoils of vic­tory af­ter be­com­ing 2016 NPFL pre­miers.

Sharks’ Tim Hart es­capes the clutches of his Fal­cons’ coun­ter­part.

Pic­ture: Ben Leahy

Swans for­ward Steele Viti is caught caught by a Kats tack­ler.

Pic­ture: Ben Leahy

The Fal­cons look to burst through a Rovers tackle.

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