WAFLW Round 15 preview: In-form Lions set sights on unbeaten Sharks
ALL of the top six West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s sides will take part in Round 15, with winless West Perth earning its last bye of the 2022 season. Though the top two spots are locked in, there is plenty on the line, with Claremont wanting to gain the mental edge against a Peel Thunder side that clicked last week upon the return of a number of stars. Swan Districts will be desperate for a win against South Fremantle to justify its place in the top four, while Subiaco can leapfrog the Swans if the Lions can do what no other side has managed this season and defeat East Fremantle.
Saturday, May 28 @ 2:20pm
Lane Group Stadium
Reigning back-to-back premiers Peel Thunder are starting to hit their straps at the right time of the year, but will be truly tested in Round 15 to see where they are at. The return of Sabreena Duffy, Ella Roberts and Krystal Carter paid dividends for the Thunder against Swan Districts, winning their fourth game in six matches. Though on paper the form looks good, two of those victories came against the winless West Perth, while the other two losses came against the unbeaten East Fremantle. Claremont on the other hand has only lost to East Fremantle, sitting 9-2 though this will likely be their biggest non-Sharks clash of the season. The last time these sides met was back in round 6, where the Tigers got up by 39 points in a result that flattered the Thunder given Claremont lead by 57 points at the final break. Brooke Whyte slotted five goals on that day, with Jacinta Valentini snagging three, as Sasha Goranova ran wild.
Unfortunately the Thunder will be without a trio of key players as Duffy is out alongside Bella Mann and Jorja Haines. Fellow State Academy member Emily Gunton returns to the side, along with Anke Grove and Arianne Norris. Claremont has wield the changes as well, with some crucial players out including defender Madeleine Scanlon, forwards Tessa Doumanis and Tayla Thorogood and winger Kobi Nichols. They do regain Jasmin Stewart who has been named at half-back for the match, while Emily Elkington will add class to the midfield, and tackling machine Jorja Elisseou will player her second League match for the Tigers. Given the form of both sides, the wing battles between Kaitlyn Srhoj and Jaide Britton up against Mikayla Western and Katherine Orme will be important, while Paige Hamilton-Smith has done a fantastic job of nullifying forwards in recent weeks, and will try to claim the biggest scalp of all in competition leading goalkicker Kate Bartlett.
Sunday, May 29 @ 2pm
Steel Blue Oval
After sitting at 2-6 after 10 rounds, Subiaco looked in serious trouble, with only wins over South Fremantle and West Perth – and a loss against the Bulldogs – but have since picked up with three consecutive wins over the past month. The Lions are looking better, but will need to step up to another level to try and roll the Sharks, with the three wins coming against the other bottom four sides. Subiaco has a horror run home against the top three teams, but one win might be enough to get past Swan Districts who only have the two games. East Fremantle have a stranglehold on the minor premiership, but will be hoping to keep the form rolling in Round 15, having smashed Subiaco by 50 points back in Round 7. In that game, the Sharks held the Lions goalless as the likes of Ashleigh Gomes and Larissa Versaci proved too good despite the best efforts of Tarnica Golisano and Jayme Harken.
Unfortunately for the Lions, their task will be made all the tougher by the loss of key players including Golisano, Ellie Blackmore, Tiah Toth and Jessica Ritchie. They do regain ruck Tess Lyons, key position player Jamie Rust to support the defence, and youngster Charlotte Newland, but will be up against a strong East Fremantle outfit. The midfield of Gomes, Sharon Wong and Amber Kinnane will be a real test, with the East Fremantle forward line featuring Versaci, Julia Teakle and Mylee Leitch a tough one to combat.
Sunday, May 29 @ 2pm
New Choice Homes Park
Completing the trio of matches is a crucial one for Swan Districts, with the Swans only having the two games left and the last one coming against Peel Thunder in the final round. Since defeating South Fremantle back in Round 7 and being 4-2, Swan Districts has won just one of six games since, and slumped to a 5-7 record in real danger of missing the top four. Luckily for the Black Ducks, the Lions have to face the top three sides, but if the Swans lose this game, then all it takes is Subiaco to win one and the Lions will grab fourth. The Bulldogs on the other hand are realistically out of finals, but mathematically could make it in. If they beat Swan Districts and somehow upset East Fremantle in the final round, then theoretically, the Swans and Lions are tipped to lose the rest, paving the way for the Bulldogs to finish fourth. When these sides last played in Round 7, the Swans got up by 14 points as captain Jessica Cox ran rampant with 29 touches, while Ashley Sharp slotted two goals. Poppy Stockwell and captain Lauren Vecchio were among the best for the Bulldogs.
South Fremantle have regained a number of top stars for the clash after massive late withdrawals last week. AFLW Academy ruck Lauren Wakfer and fellow State Academy members Rosie Anderson and Molly O’Hehir return to the fold, as does captain Lauren Vecchio, ball-winner Liusaidh Gilchrist and defender Zoe Wakfer. The Swans also have a key couple of ins, with top-age talent Tara Stribley returning from injury alongside Hope Ugle-Hayward and Sarah Wielstra. Strangely their three emergencies are qualities players in defender Lauren Osborne and goalscorers Taylah Edwards and Courtney Zappara.