Fierce fin­ish tipped

Pilbara News - - Sport - Ali­cia Perera and Sophia Con­stan­tine 5,

Com­pe­ti­tion re­mains fierce in the 2017 North Pil­bara Foot­ball League sea­son, with only six rounds to go un­til fi­nals.

With some sig­nif­i­cant changes on the lad­der in re­cent weeks, it is shap­ing up to be an un­pre­dictable late stretch.

At the end of round 9, Wick­ham Wolves and Kar­ratha Kats have edged ahead of the pack, but Dampier Sharks, South Hed­land Swans, Port Hed­land Rovers and Kar­ratha Fal­cons are still in with a chance at tak­ing home the pre­mier­ship this year.

The Pil­bara News and North West Tele­graph took a look at each side to see how they are shap­ing up in the race to fi­nals.

Wick­ham Wolves

League wins: 8, losses: 1 Re­serve wins: 3, losses: 6 Wick­ham Wolves leaped over Kar­ratha Kats and into top spot on the NPFL lad­der in round 9 as the team’s form has im­proved and play­ers have started hit­ting their straps in the past few rounds of foot­ball.

The fast, young Wick­ham side are chas­ing their first pre­mier­ship af­ter com­ing close in an oth­er­wise strong 2016 sea­son and have been build­ing in con­fi­dence as the sea­son goes.

Speak­ing af­ter a win in round 7, Wolves coach Richard Coates said the club was fo­cus­ing on con­sol­i­dat­ing and mak­ing their play for the ti­tle a team ef­fort. “The good thing about us (is) when we start get­ting play­ers back, then the re­serves start get­ting a lit­tle bit stronger be­cause the play­ers fil­ter down again and we’ve been look­ing at try­ing to have one strong club and not two teams,” he said.

“Con­fi­dence is a big thing in foot­ball, so if we get con­fi­dent . . . know­ing that we can get one up (with a lot of play­ers down), then hope­fully come the fu­ture rounds it should put us in good stead.”

The Wolves’ re­serves side have had mixed for­tunes since the first few rounds, and are sit­ting in fifth po­si­tion on the lad­der with three wins and six losses.

Kar­ratha Kats

League wins: 7, losses: 2 Re­serve wins: 7, losses: 1, draws: 1 Last year’s pre­miers have been the lad­der-lead­ers and the team to beat for most of the sea­son, only suf­fer­ing their first de­feat in round 7 against the Wick­ham Wolves.

Another loss to the Sharks fol­lowed last week, but the Kar­ratha side re­mains for­mi­da­ble, if not un­beat­able, and is likely to be one of the top con­tenders come fi­nals.

Coach John Welling­ton said hard work in the pre-sea­son had paid off and given the team a con­sis­tently good start and some lee­way.

“It’s about tak­ing points early and set­ting up early on and that’s what we did,” he said.

“Ob­vi­ously we had a bit of a lull in form the past few weeks but we’ll find that form again.

“On the other hand, we’ve put our­selves in a po­si­tion where we can af­ford to drop one or two here and there and are still within strik­ing dis­tance.

Welling­ton said the Kats’ de­fence had been their great­est strength this sea­son, and they were plan­ning to go back to ba­sics in the re­main­ing rounds of the sea­son.

As for the Kats’ top-placed re­serves side, he said their strong per­for­mance was a credit to their work ethic.

“They’re worked re­ally hard to put them­selves in the po­si­tion they’re in,” he said.

Dampier Sharks

League wins: 5, losses: 4 Re­serve wins: 2, losses: 7 Af­ter a shaky start, Dampier Sharks have been build­ing im­pres­sively in the past few rounds, mov­ing up into third place on the lad­der by round 9 and look­ing likely to be a dark horse come fi­nals time.

Sharks act­ing league coach Ryan Hawk said the team had been be­com­ing more con­sis­tent and ac­cu­rate in the past few weeks and he was happy with where the team was at.

“Hope­fully we can con­tinue to im­prove,” he said.

“There’s still a lot of hard work to be done to get to where the club wants to be, so we’ll con­tinue to

im­prove on what we’ve seen in the last cou­ple of weeks.”

The Sharks’ re­serves side are at the bot­tom of the lad­der but Hawk, the re­serves coach, said morale was good.

“The re­serves, they turn up, they’re there, they’re what makes the club good, so even if they’re not win­ning games it doesn’t mean they’re not hav­ing a suc­cess­ful year,” he said.

“They’re fairly new in terms of play­ing to­gether.”

South Hed­land Swans

League wins: 4, losses: 5 Re­serve wins: 3, losses: draws: 1 The 2015 league pre­miers as­serted them­selves early on this sea­son and started strongly, but by round 9, have slipped to fourth place as other teams have started firing.

South Hed­land Swans pres­i­dent Barry Tay­lor said in­juries had taken a harsh toll on the team and con­trib­uted to them los­ing a fair few games in re­cent weeks.

How­ever, he said he was con­fi­dent that, de­spite the rough patch, the Swans could re­main in the top four as long as play­ers avoided fur­ther in­jury.

“We’ve been dev­as­tated by in­juries this sea­son . . . 15 of our best 22 play­ers have re­ceived in­juries,” he said.

“We hope to have 12 play­ers back within the next two to three weeks, so hope­fully we can win games and re­main in the top four, run­ning back into the fi­nals at full strength.” Swans’ re­serves are in fourth place, with five wins, three losses and a draw to their name.

Port Hed­land Rovers

League wins: 2, losses: 7 Re­serve wins: 5, losses: 4 Rovers have had a shaky start to this sea­son but have man­aged to get two wins un­der their belts to still be in it with a chance.

Rovers pres­i­dent Mal Olive said it had been a some­times “chal­leng­ing” sea­son, but with the right con­di­tions, the team were still ca­pa­ble of going toe-to-toe with any team in the com­pe­ti­tion.

“We’ve got a lot of new blood come into the team,” he said.

“It’s been great and has in­jected some speed and it’s been good fun.

“The club has cer­tainly di­ver­si­fied com­pared to what we have nor­mally had.”

Olive said new coach Nathaniel Field­ing had been “a breath of fresh air”.

“He keeps com­ing back even when we do fall back and it keeps the boys on their toes,” he said.

The Rovers have been solid per­form­ers in re­serves this sea­son and the team are sit­ting in third place on the lad­der, with five wins and four losses.

Kar­ratha Fal­cons

League wins: 1, losses: 8 Re­serve wins: 6, losses: 3 It has been another dif­fi­cult start to the sea­son for Kar­ratha Fal­cons, who are com­ing off the back of a rough few years.

The league side be­gan with eight straight losses de­spite some ex­tremely close con­tests and of­ten quite even on-field play, but with a breakthrough first win against the Rovers in the last round, there could be a resur­gence in the works.

Fal­cons league coach Cameron Ling said af­ter their de­ter­mined come­back from be­hind against Port Hed­land Rovers last round, the young side were en­thu­si­as­tic to get more wins on the board.

“We’ve been up and about with the teams, say, South Hed­land and Dampier,” he said.

“It just goes to show the young guns we’ve got around the club at the mo­ment are show­ing some spirit.

“We’re re­ally get­ting en­thused and we’re get­ting a lot more peo­ple on the train­ing track.

“Ob­vi­ously we want to work on more wins. We just need to work on our re­lapses . . . so we’re just going to go for four strong quar­ters of footy.”

Ling said the Fal­cons re­serves, the reign­ing pre­miers in their com­pe­ti­tion, were a “strong out­fit” do­ing well un­der coach Brett Davy and showed there was good depth in the club.

“They’ve been put­ting some good scores on the board and play­ing some good footy,” he said.

“They’ll be going for the grand fi­nal again.”

Fal­cons and Wolves con­test the ruck. Pic­tures: Ali­cia Perera

Swans' Daniel Beat­tie-Gil­mour de­fends a kick from Kats' Bradley Har­ris.

Rovers' Kieran Hard­ing and Sharks' Guy Lang­don go up for a mark.

Sharks' Clin­ton Franklin and Kats' Jack­son Davey vie for the ball.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.