Preview | WAFLW R1b: Sides set for Grand Final rematch
A GRAND Final rematch is in store for the second day of the 2023 WAFL Women’s season with reigning premiers Claremont taking on East Fremantle in the first of two Sunday clashes. The other match sees Subiaco pitted against South Fremantle as both sides hope to start their seasons off on the right note after missing out on finals in 2022.
East Fremantle Women's
Both these sides are coming off impressive preseasons, with Claremont knocking off an NTFL Women’s All-Stars side in January, before taking care of East Perth despite only boasting eight players from its best 21. East Fremantle rolled past South Fremantle and Swan Districts in its two clashes, and after going undefeated in 2022 until the grand final, will be looking to start off on the right note. Claremont, who spoiled the party for the Sharks in the decider last year, will equally be keen to carry that momentum into 2023.
Claremont is very excited about Rogers Cup club best and fairest Juliet Kelly who makes her debut at just 15-years-old. She will slot straight into the lineup off half-back, while few bigger names switched clubs than reigning Subiaco best and fairest winner, Jayme Harken. A key inclusion for Round 1 is West Coast midfielder/forward Krstel Petrevski who will add extra skill to an impressive midfield.
East Fremantle has a huge inclusion of its own with the return of dynamic Fremantle midfielder-forward Gabby O’Sullivan named on-ball. She is alongside a handful of new inclusions, though there is plenty of anticipation for Caylen Crook‘s debut, with the talent named on the bench.
A lot of the inclusions for both sides are considered key players, with a Claremont midfield of Stewart, Petrevski and Harken – the latter of whom has been named off half-back, while Over-age Draft hopefuls Mackenzie Webb and Matilda Dyke hold down the key defensive positions. Youngster Ella Slocombe has performed strongly over the preseason since returning from a month in Canada. Ex-West Coast winger Kate Orme will provided plenty of drive in tandem with Kobi Nichols.
East Fremantle is stacked across the baord, with a host of young talents. Though missing AFLW Academy member Georgie Cleaver, the Sharks have the likes of Anjelique Raison in attack, and bottom-age duo Zippy Fish and Taya Chambers named off half-back. Winger Amber Kinnane caught the eye last season, while Ashlee Atkins returns from her second AFLW stint on the Gold Coast.
The game is a tough one to try and predict with stars across both sides. The inclusion of O’Sullivan for the Sharks could be the difference in the game. Expect it to go down to the wire either way with the two sides set to be the ones to beat again.
South Fremantle Women's
Both these sides will be hungry for finals action in 2023 after missing out last season. Finishing fifth and sixth on the ladder respectively, Subiaco and South Fremantle will be determined to grab an early four points. The Lions will need to overcome the loss of last year’s best and fairest winner Harken to Claremont, while South Fremantle has recruited hard and is fresh off a big win over West Perth following a loss to East Fremantle.
Subiaco has a star double bottom-ager to watch in exciting key forward Olivia Wolmarans, who has shades of Amy Franklin in her game. The athletic tall will make her Round 1 debut, while West Coast tall Beth Schilling is also into the side, and Charlotte Newland played three games and is a highly regarded teenage talent.
South Fremantle will be buoyed by the return of tenacious small forward Makaela Tuhakaraina from Fremantle for the match, while Megan Bain has crossed from Peel Thunder. Another new face to the squad is ex-Peel ruck Ariana Hetherington who will make her League debut for the Bulldogs.
Subiaco has always had a rock solid midfield, with captain Tarnica Golisano joined by experienced talent Tiah Toth and rising star Madison Dodd in there. Jessica Ritchie will lead the ruck division again in 2023, while Tess Lyons and Dahna Lee are forward targets to keep an eye on.
South Fremantle is excited about welcoming back talented forward Zoe Huggett who missed most of last season due to injury after a promising 2021 season. She will join Noa McNaughton inside 50 who also missed the second half of last year. Key forward Casey Byrne had a day out against West Perth in the trial match, while bottom-ager Molly O’Hehir is one of the top West Australian prospects for next season.
South Fremantle has recruited hard, and coupled with the returns of injured talents last season, the Bulldogs should be good enough to get it done. Subiaco’s midfield is the stronger of the two, so the Lions may get on top there, but some question marks around the forwardline remain, while the Bulldogs have a pretty balanced defence and dangerous attack.