Preview | WAFLW R1a: History set to be made
FOR the first time in WAFL Women’s history, a Perth side will earn premiership points over the weekend when Round 1 of the 2023 season kicks off. Reigning wooden spooners West Perth went winless in its debut season last year, but face newcomers East Perth tomorrow, meaning at least one side will walk away with some points for the first time in club history. We preview the two Saturday games in part one of our WAFL Women’s preview.
East Perth Women's
West Perth Women's
A club is set to break its duck in women’s football history, with the Falcons favourites to start off season 2023 with a win on the board, an accomplishment that eluded them last year. Having recruited heavily, West Perth will be keen to put the foot down against a side in the same boat the Falcons were 12 months ago. East Perth will no doubt put on a show, but suffered a 52-point loss to the Falcons in the trial match, before going down to an understrength Claremont by 14 goals in the second trial match. West Perth had an even more forgettable second trial, suffering a 20-goal smacking at the hands of South Fremantle.
West Perth’s inclusions are very strong and likely to help the Falcons move off the bottom of the ladder and be far more competitive in season 2023. The Bennett sisters – Katherine and Emily – are back in the red and blue, with the latter looking to show AFLW clubs that her stint at West Coast was not a once off chance. Ex-Fremantle talent Bianca Webb is another player who could be considered for the upcoming AFLW draft, as she slots straight into the Falcons midfield, while ex-Claremont player and former Falcon Brooke Hongell provides experience in the back half.
Effectively the entire list from a League perspective has changed for the Royals, with either their Rogers Cup girls making the transition up, or the newest side has been able to recruit from across the league. Ex-Claremont veteran Jess Valvasori will lead the Royals out for the first time in club history, named in the midfield with Taylah Horsham and Eliza Van De Veldes. Ex-Swan Districts defender Mel Hardy has been named in the inaugural side, with ex-South Fremantle goalsneak Emily Boothman, inside 50.
The co-captains in Hongell and Katherine Bennett will add incredible support to the young side, with Emily Bennett and Webb clearly able to compete at the level above. Coming off an impressive debut season last year, Megan Norbury has been named on her familiar wing, while top-age talent Kayla Van Den Heever joins Webb and Emily Bennett on-ball.
Hardy is an underrated player at League level and will add that skill and toughness that the Royals will need in defence, while Boothman knows where the goals are. Whether or not it gets there is another story, but the Royals have youngster Makayla Pugliese-Thompson who has represented her state in the past, named in defence. Captain Valvasori will have a tough ask in the midfield most weeks, but will lead by example.
West Perth has been here and experienced what East Perth is about to experience, and the Falcons showed in their trial game – albeit with both side missing players – that they are ready to win. In the first ever women’s Perth Derby, expect the Falcons to finally get to sing their song.
Peel Thunder Women's
Swan Districts Women's
These sides are no stranger to each other over the past few years, and despite Peel Thunder winning the last two regular season outings against Swan Districts last year, it was the Black Ducks who got the better of the Thunder in the do-or-die semi-final. Thunder fans will not easily forget a 14-1 final term inside 50 differential as they charged home in that game, but ultimately fell short. The teams return to Mandurah where the home team will be determined to get a win, while the visitors would love nothing more than to spoil the party again.
Peel Thunder has not had a heap of inclusions to its side from other WAFLW League clubs, so turned its attention to its Rogers Cup program and local leagues. They have high wraps on young defender Evie Cowcher who is a double bottom-ager and a good size at 173cm. Ebony Dowson has taken over the captaincy from Cassie Davidson, while coach Steve Markham admitted the club would not have access to star young gun Ella Roberts or reigning multiple league leading goalkicker Kate Bartlett for the 2023 season.
Swan Districts picked up a familiar face to the Peel Thunder fans to lead its ruck division this season, with ex-Thunder ruck Lauren Quaife making the switch north. Like Peel, the Swans have not had many changes to the lineup outside of youth and local league talent, though a couple of names to keep an eye on include ex-Carlton VFLW footballer and Cairns talent Jasmine Ware, as well as State Academy member and bottom-ager Indiana West, aptly named out of the south west region. Unfortunately for the Swans, they have lost a stack of experience in the likes of Ashley Sharp, Lauren Osborne, Aimee Ralph and Emily McGuire all departing.
Peel Thunder has named West Coast winger Jaide Britton for Round 1, having access to her at the start of the season. Britton has the potential to play alongside younger sister Holly, who will likely make the jump up from Rogers Cup more often in 2023. Dowson will be a rock in defence, while the midfield duo of Gracie Fenton and Chloe Wrigley will find plenty of the ball. From a top-age draft perspective, winger Kaitlyn Srhoj is one of the most promising players in the state.
Swan Districts will be minus star top-ager Jaime Henry for the clash, with the teenager still battling a corkie from last year’s preliminary final. Fellow West Australian representative Tyla Fitzgerald has been named in the team, while captain Jessica Cox will lead the side for a second straight season. Forward Taylah Edwards and defender Eliza Gelmi are others who will undoubtedly be in for big years.
Expected to be a tight contest, Peel Thunder will have the edge back at home, especially with Swan Districts having a vastly different lineup to the one from that semi-final. It will give the visitors a chance to provide the sense of unknown, but may take a while to gel.