“Spark has been lit” for hungry Tigers

CLAREMONT is ready and raring to defend its WAFL Women’s premiership when the 2023 season kicks off this weekend.

A ground change from the club’s home deck of Revo Fitness Stadium on Saturday to Pentanet Stadium on Sunday due to ongoing renovations with lights at the Claremont venue, has not dampened the spirits of the players ready to back up their memorable 2022 year.

Claremont coach Jack Schwarze said he was excited about what the club could produce this season. The Tigers beat an NTFL Women’s All-Stars side over the Summer break, then took care of newcomers East Perth with a barebones lineup by 14 goals a fortnight ago. Coupled with an intraclub bout, Schwarze believes his side is ready to go.

“The spark’s definitely been lit after that (Darwin) game, they’re confident, they’re up and about,” he said. “It’s been real high energy the rest of the time. We had an intraclub which with no reserves competition, just the fact that we could get a quality intraclub two solid teams hitting out against each other, and the standard in that intraclub was incredible and it started to have to make us stress a little bit about selection.

“Then we gave about 13 of our starting 21 a rest in our practice match against East Perth which we ended up winning by 80-odd points to nothing. That was pretty good to good the depth coming through and a lot of hungry girls the competition for spots is well and truly open, so training’s been really good and we’re really happy.”

Claremont’s next opponent is the side the Tigers beat in last year’s grand final, East Fremantle, and while the expected opposition quality gap between East Perth and East Fremantle might be a cause for concern, Schwarze said both the Tigers and Sharks headed into the game in a similar position.

“We’ve been preparing for that anyway with the intensity with training and because we did get to do the Darwin game, we were able to change things up for East Perth,” Schwarze said. “We were at least prepared, we had some really quality opposition in terms of that, and our match sim that we do at training is pretty full on in terms of years gone by and the intensity. “Last night’s match sim was pretty high intensity.

“There’s only so much you can ever do to prepare and East Freo are in the same boat. They have only played basically a Rogers Cup team in their first entry game against South and then they rested quite a few of their old girls against Swan Districts so they’ll be in a fairly similar boat in terms of just getting the cohesion together and it’s always hard to see what’s going to happen in Round 1, but ultimately our training standard has been enough to prepare.”

Claremont’s depth has been the key to a strong off-season, with Schwarze having plenty of headaches trying to sort out the final Round 1 squad, which was decided upon last night. The team will hold a captain’s run training session on Friday night ahead of the Sunday game, though a few players over the preseason forced their way in after initially being on the outer from a selection standpoint.

The first player that came to mind was bottom-age midfielder/forward Ella Slocombe who missed the trip to the Top End due to being in Canada for a month. A member of the State Academy, Slocombe became a premiership player with the Tigers last year, but was in danger of being forced out of the senior team due to the depth at the club.

“It was hard to see where she was fitting into this squad, also from a midfield/forward point of view,” Schwarze said. “The intraclub game followed by the praccy match against East Perth, she threw her hat in the ring big time and we couldn’t pass her up and we’ve got Krstel Petrevski coming in from West Coast playing a game this week as well. It was going to be touch and go whether we could fit her in, but we’re really, really happy with Ella Slocombe, she’s one that’s stepped up big time.”

The reigning premiers will also blood a couple of debutants who were being informed of their debuts earlier today, including 15-year-old Juliet Kelly, a double bottom-age talent who has done everything right over the preseason coming off a Rogers Cup best and fairest for the Tigers. Along with Kelly, excitement machine Eva Campo has also secured her spot in the side, while a consistent League player who Schwarze conceded “struggled a little bit” in 2022, Jacinta Valentini, also overcame a knee injury to earn a spot in the team.

“She’s had an incredible preseason so she hurt her knee about six weeks ago and has just spent the last week and a half back into full contact training, but she’s ready to go so we’re really, really excited with her,” Schwarze said.

Looking ahead to Sunday’s game against East Fremantle, the Claremont coach said there was no club he would rather measure up against than the Sharks.

“We want to know where we’re at straight away,” Schwarze said. “We got to play Swan Districts (last year) who were coming off a grand final loss. They didn’t do the grand final rematch last year, so we were really keen to play Swan Districts and measure ourselves straight away. It’s no different this year, so whether it’s a grand final rematch or not, we just want to play the top team.”

Claremont takes on East Fremantle at Pentanet Stadium from 2pm on Sunday afternoon, with the Rogers Cup match starting two hours earlier at midday.

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