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Optus WAFL 2019 Season PreviewThursday, April 4, 2019 - 2:40 PM - by Chris Pike

WITH the arrival of the West Coast Eagles as a standalone team and a 10-side competition for the first time there's plenty of excitement surrounding the opening of the 2019 Optus WAFL season.

Round 1 of the 2019 season begins this Saturday with five matches as the 10 teams all lock horns determined to make a winning start.

It all gets underway with Perth taking on the West Coast Eagles at Lathlain's Mineral Resources Park with Peel Thunder hosting West Perth, Subiaco taking on East Perth, Claremont facing East Fremantle and Swan Districts playing South Fremantle.


Some clubs are coming into the new season with vastly new-looking outfits with Bill Monaghan now coaching East Fremantle while Geoff Valentine is in charge at West Perth, Jeremy Barnard is coaching East Perth and Beau Wardman has taken over the reigning premiers Subiaco.

There's some exciting talent either entering or returning to the WAFL too highlighted by Declan Mountford at Claremont, Rohan Kerr at East Perth, Jackson Merrett at Peel Thunder, Kade Stewart at South Fremantle, Harry Marsh at Subiaco and Brady Grey with the West Coast Eagles.

It looks set to be cracking WAFL season with each team playing 18 games of which they will face one another home and away once, aside from the Eagles who will play at the venue of their opposition team in all 18 appearances.

Coach: Darren Harris
Co-Captains: Ian Richardson, Kane Mitchell
2018 finish: 9-9, lost first semi-final
Fairest and Best winner: Jye Bolton
Leading goalkicker: Tom Lee (41)
In: Declan Mountford, Callan England, Jake Murphy, Jack Bradshaw, CJ Oakley, Harry McCracken
Out: Keifer Yu, Beau Maister, Morgan Davies, Jordan Clarke, Tom Shanahan

CLAREMONT took significant steps forward in 2018 and are expected to be right around the mark by many in the 2019 WAFL season with coach Darren Harris feeling comfortable with how their preparation and player retention has gone.

Claremont finished the home and away season in fourth position last year to earn a home elimination final, which they went on to win against East Perth at Claremont Oval before having their season ended a week later in the first semi-final against West Perth.

But to reach the second week of the finals showed significant growth for the Tigers under Harris and now the highly-regarded, successful and experienced coach is looking for some further steps forward in 2019.

Despite the loss through retirement of Beau Maister and Keifer Yu, stability of the playing group has been the order of the day in the off-season with Claremont as well which Harris feels could be the biggest factor in whatever success they achieve in 2019.

With experienced players like Jye Bolton, Kane Mitchell, Tom Curren, Haydn Busher, Ian Richardson, Anton Hamp and Tom Lee remaining along with an emerging group led by Jared Hardisty, Ryan Lim, Bailey Rogers, Jack Beeck, Lachlan Martinis, Oliver Eastland, Declan Hardisty and Kaiden Gilbert, it's an impressive squad.

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Coach: Bill Monaghan 
Captain: Jonathon Griffin
2018 finish: 2-16, 9th
Fairest and Best winner: George Hampson
Leading goalkicker: Cameron Loersch (27)
In: Kody Manning, Luke Strnadica, Morgan Davies, Alex Bray, Kyle Havelberg, Jesse Adamini, Tom Bennett, Michael Tassone
Out: George Hampson, Jonathon Marsh, Jamie McNamara, Joel Kalajzic, Carl Green, Ben Harding

WITH East Fremantle looking for someone to lead them back to success and Bill Monaghan on the lookout for a new start, the two forces joined forces in the off-season and now the Sharks are looking to rise up the ladder in 2019 as a result.

It has been lean pickings in recent years for East Fremantle with the Sharks narrowly avoiding the wooden spoon in 2017 but not being so lucky last year. They won just two games on the way to a last place finish leading to the resignation of coach Rob Wiley.

It was time for a fresh outlook and voice for East Fremantle and when Monaghan came on the market having decided not to seek reappointment with West Perth, then he appeared the perfect man for the job.

Monaghan left West Perth as a premiership coach in 2013 and having taken the Falcons to Grand Finals in 2015 and 2017 along the way becoming the club's longest-serving and most successful coach in history.

That was quite the legacy for the former Subiaco and Peel Thunder hard man to create with West Perth and while he was ready to walk away from the Falcons, he was far from done with coaching in the WAFL.

So he put his hand up to coach at East Fremantle, was subsequently appointed and now ever since the hard work has been on-going to try to help the Sharks rise up the WAFL ladder in 2019 and improve on the two wins they recorded in 2018.

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Coach: Jeremy Barnard
Co-Captains: Kyle Anderson, Patrick McGinnity
2018 finish: 8-10, 5th
Fairest and Best winners: Luke Partington, Patrick McGinnity, Matthew Allen
Leading goalkicker: Will Maginness (26)
In: Rohan Kerr, Joel Houghton, Jarrhan Jacky, Matthew Johnson, Sam Bevan, Nick Hay, Mitch Howlett, Shaquille McKenzie, Jarrod Best, Angus Scott, Tarir Bayok, Nathan Dwyer, Jordan Busher, 
Out: Damon Greaves, Josh Hewett, Matt Seymour, Nathan Introvigne, Harry Blanch, Tom Baulch, Dwayne Bolton

WHILE under no illusions about the job ahead to turn East Perth back into a competitive standalone WAFL outfit, as a favourite son of the Royals Jeremy Barnard is all about restoring the club's culture built around the never-say-die attitude.

East Perth will return to being a standalone club in the 2019 WAFL season as the alignment with the West Coast Eagles comes to an end.

That means that the Eagles will now have their own club in the WAFL from 2019 onwards while the Royals will return to their traditional roots of not having the West Coast aligned players in the league and reserves teams on the weekend.

What that immediately meant for Barnard when he was appointed coach was that he had to find a whole batch of players to either recruit or welcome back to East Perth to ensure they could not only fill the required numbers in 2019, but to be a competitive outfit.

While it may remain a work in progress for East Perth to become a true power again as they replenish their player stocks, Barnard has always been a winner and has no reason not to still be aiming to be successful with East Perth.

Barnard has plenty of winning history with the Royals as a triple premiership captain from the start of this century so while he knows there's plenty of work to do, he wants East Perth to set their sights on winning immediately but only if they get the culture right.

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Coach: Cam Shepherd
Captain: Ben Howlett
2018 finish: 7-11, 7th
Fairest and Best winner: Danyle Pearce, Ben Howlett 
Leading goalkicker: Luke Strnadica, Gerald Ugle (17)
In: Jackson Merrett, Ryan Bennell, Matt Bogensperger, Ben Harding
Out: Alex Bray, Kyle Havelberg, Kaine Ah Chee, Jackson Capurso, Michael Humble, Leroy Jetta, James Kirby, Josh Mathers, Brad McGowan, Josh McMahon, Nick Merrett, Brett Milward, Joel O'Driscoll, Michael Tassone, Brad Walsh

PEEL Thunder narrowly missed the finals in 2018 denying them the chance at a WAFL premiership hat-trick but coach Cam Shepherd is buoyant over their prospects in 2019.

The Thunder won the premierships of 2016 and 2017 to create history and then had the chance to make even more in 2018. But Peel narrowly missed out on qualifying for the finals and Shepherd subsequently had an extra month of planning for the off-season than the previous years.

The result has been the retention of much of Peel's solid core of Thunder players with them topped up by the recruitment of former Essendon AFL midfielder Jackson Merrett.

While there are losses especially in terms of the Fremantle AFL-listed players they had good service from in 2018, there'll be another group of Dockers that contribute for Peel in 2019 and Shepherd likes the way his group is shaping up.

Now with Round 1 at home to West Perth approaching, Shepherd can reflect on the potentially missed opportunity of last year but of more importance, look forward with confidence of what 2019 should hold for his team.

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Coach: Earl Spalding
Captain: Corey Yeo
2018 finish: 7-11, 6th
Fairest and Best winner: Brant Colledge
Leading goalkicker: Michael Bennell (26)
In: Matthew Rogers, Gordon Narrier, Chris Bryan, Josh Burke, Cody Kickett, Jacob Payne, Che Wyatt, Zareth Roe, Guy Langdon, Matt Thompson
Out: Spencer White, Devin McFarlane, Laine Wilkins, Ben Giobbi, Sydney Stack, Kurtis Chester, Brad McPhail, Joseph Ugle, Jake Schleicher, Ben Power, Redmond Dobson, Taran Etto

BRANT Colledge is coming off the best and most consistent season of his career in 2018 and now with his body remaining sound entering 2019, he desperately wants to help end the finals drought of Perth.

It is likely only a constant run of unlucky injuries that led to Colledge's time on West Coast's list coming to an end following the 2016 season having played just three AFL games.

He continued to struggle physically back in the WAFL full-time with his original club Perth too but that all changed in 2018 and with a sound body, his form went through the roof.

Largely because his body hadn’t allowed him to play a lot of time in the midfield, Colledge found himself pigeon-holed as a half-forward for several years and that's where he started his 2018 season with the Demons.

But with his fitness improving and both his body and form allowing, he spent more and more time in the midfield and alongside Clint Jones, Corey Yeo and Corey Byrne, that became one of the strengths for the Demons who ended up just a game and percentage out of the top five.

Colledge ended up winning the fairest and best award for Perth in a much-improved season that gives plenty of hope that 2019 can now be the year that their finals drought ends.

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Coach: Todd Curley
Captain: Dylan Main
2018 finish: 13-5, lost preliminary final 
Fairest and Best winner: Marlion Pickett
Leading goalkicker: Mason Shaw (47)
In: Kade Stewart, Michael Coombes, Andrew Haydon, Josh Loo, Jye Depane
Out: Cory Dell'Olio, Ryan Cook, Ashton Hams, Shane Hockey, Ben Saunders, Jarrod Parry, Matthew Parker, Blaine Johnson, Steven Edwards

AFTER three years of being ever so close to a Grand Final appearance, it's a new era at South Fremantle in 2019 after a spate of retirees but coach Todd Curley doesn’t see any reason why they can't continue to perform strongly.

Coming off a successful era between 2004-11 under coach John Dimmer where South Fremantle won two premiership and played in finals in each season bar one, it took some time to rebuild with four years out of finals.

But by the time 2016 came around in Curley's second season as coach, it was a South Fremantle group ready to perform and over the past three seasons, they have finished second at the end of each home and away season while reaching the preliminary final on every occasion.

The Bulldogs couldn’t quite advance to a Grand Final losing those preliminary finals to Peel Thunder, Subiaco and West Perth, and by the time they suffered their shock loss at Fremantle Community Bank Oval to the Falcons last year, it proved the end of an era in many ways.

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Coach: Beau Wardman
Captain: Leigh Kitchin
2018 finish: 18-0, Premiers
Fairest and Best winner: Kyal Horsley
Leading goalkicker: Ben Sokol (43)
In: Harry Marsh, Jakeb Tartaglia, Jackson Capurso, Nixon Hamlet, Josh Chapman, Simon Moore, Ryan Vermeersch, Joel Latham, Joe Scafidi 
Out: Chris Phelan, Brad Stevenson, Adam Cockie, Zac Clarke, Luke Foley, Daniel Perkins, Jack Fletcher, Ryan Wade, Chris Bryan

THERE is a new coach at Subiaco and some premiership stars have moved on, but as Beau Wardman steps into the hot seat he and everyone at the Lions are not ready to expect any sort of drop off from the WAFL benchmark.

Subiaco had a remarkably dominant 2018 season with the Lions going through the league season undefeated on the way to a premiership on the back of the heartbreak of minor premiership seasons the two years before but losing the Grand Finals to Peel Thunder.

Not only that, but Subiaco won premierships in the reserves and colts to make their own piece of WAFL history in remarkable fashion.

Wardman coached that Subiaco colts team to the premiership and now he steps up to be league coach in 2019 following the departure of Jarrad Schofield who has taken up an assistant coaching role in the AFL with Port Adelaide.

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Coach: Adam Pickering
Co-Captains: David Ellard, Tony Notte, Matt Riggio
2018 finish: 6-12, 8th
Fairest and Best winner: Tony Notte
Leading goalkicker: Brayden Noble (29)
In: George Hampson, Josh Simpson, Jesse Glass-McCasker, Lachlan Riley, Leigh Kohlmann, Tony Stephens, Aiden Clarke
Out: Kirk Ugle, Todd Banfield, Jarrad Blight, Matthew Rogers, Jarrod Cameron, Troy Yukich

SWAN Districts coach Adam Pickering learned plenty from his first season in charge in 2018 and is confident the black-and-whites can rise up the ladder in 2019 with the remaining core group and some exciting young players.

While Swan Districts have lost some more experience over summer including Todd Banfield, Kirk Ugle, Jarrad Blight and Matthew Rogers from a team that won just six games in 2018, with a question mark over Rhys Palmer's future, Pickering is optimistic over their prospects.

Aside from the arrival of two-club fairest and best winner George Hampson and former Fremantle AFL player Josh Simpson along with the return from Carlton of Jesse Glass-McCasker, it's been much about sticking with the group of senior players and those emerging for Swan Districts.

With a core group of experienced still led by Tony Notte, Alex Howard, Matt Riggio, Steven Payne, Corey Gault, Nathan Blakely and David Ellard, it's still a good mix of senior players to show the way at Bassendean. 

There are then the likes of Jesse Turner, Warrick Wilson, Brayden Hackett, Will Reidy, Mitch Mackenzie, Jack O'Sullivan, Patrick Italiano, Graydon Wilson, Tristen Raynor, Mitchell Bain and Brad Fullgrabe who all will be among those receiving the chances to take their games up another level.

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Coach: Luke Webster
Captain: Fraser McInnes
In: Brady Grey, Daniel Acres, Luke Salomone, Matthew Ah Siu, Joel Ashman, Andrew Fisher, Joel Kalajzic, Liam Robilliard, Brodie Riach, Patrick Bines, Zac Fitzgerald, Alex Coe, Kieran Hug, Jak Cary, Sam Lamont, Mitch Curnow, Sam Hobbs, Nicholas Reid 
Out: N/A

THE West Coast Eagles aren’t entering the WAFL just to make up the numbers and to have their players preparing for the AFL with coach Luke Webster making no secret that winning is also a major focus.

For the first time, the WAFL will be a 10-team competition in 2019 with the addition of the West Coast Eagles team with their partnership with East Perth coming to an end following the 2018 season.

That means that the Royals return to being a standalone club and the Eagles will field their own side for the first ever time. 

The flow on effects of that will be no need for a team to have a bye each week while it's a genuine home-away competition with each team playing one another twice, both home and away.

It will be a little different for West Coast, however, with the Eagles to play all their WAFL matches at the home venue of their opponents.

That all gets underway in Round 1 when West Coast takes on Perth at Lathlain's Mineral Resources Park.

It remains a great unknown just how the Eagles team will shape up with the group made up of 17 WAFL-listed players who will be topped by the West Coast-listed players not selected for an AFL game any given week.

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Coach: Geoff Valentine 
Captain: Aaron Black
2018 finish: 11-7, lost grand final
Fairest and Best winner: Aaron Black
Leading goalkicker: Tyler Keitel, Andrew Strijk (53)
In: Troy Yukich, Ben Delaporte, Tom O'Halloran, Patrick Fairhead, Kirk Bartel, Noah Pegoraro, Laine Rasmussen, Sam Rotham, Drew Blurton
Out: Luke Meadows, Jay van Berlo, Kody Manning, Chris Keunen, Max Alexander, Tyrese Miller, Alex Coe, Steve Potente, Angus Allen

REPLACING the club's all-time longest-serving and winningest coach is a big job, but Geoff Valentine is ready to be a WAFL senior coach as he takes over at West Perth confident in the playing group he has to work with.

For the first time in a decade West Perth has a new senior coach in 2019 with Valentine stepping into the role left vacant by 2013 premiership winner Bill Monaghan who departs having coached the Falcons to the most ever wins and most games in the rich history of the club.

That leaves big shoes to fill but also a fresh voice to the experienced members of the playing group like Shane Nelson (139 games), Aaron Black (173), Trent Manzone (104), Blake Wilhelm (70), Corey Chalmers (65), Kris Shannon (89), Tyler Keitel (78), Mark Hamilton (57) and Ben King (51) who have played their entire WAFL careers under Monaghan.

But at the same time, Valentine has served an impressive apprenticeship at West Perth, Swan Districts and Claremont in the WAFL on top of plenty of other football-related roles at different levels.

West Perth is coming off a Grand Final appearance in 2018 as Valentine takes over and while there has been some key losses led by Chris Keunen, Jay van Berlo, Luke Meadows and Kody Manning.

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