SOUTH Fremantle and Subiaco finished in the top two spots at the end of last season and there's every reason to expect them to be contenders again in 2017 ahead of their Round 1 clash at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.
The Bulldogs and Lions were locked in a battle over the minor premiership for a lot of 2016, but ultimately Subiaco won that race with a 16-4 record just ahead of South Fremantle who finished on 15-5.
That set up an eventual second semi-final clash between the two clubs at Leederville Oval with the Lions continuing their good run over the Bulldogs to advance to a third straight grand final.
While Subiaco missed out the premiership hat-trick in the end after losing the grand final to Peel Thunder, it was still another season where the Lions deserved to be happy with how they performed.
South Fremantle too took significant strides forward in 2016 to give the Bulldogs plenty to try and now build on in 2017.
South Fremantle had not played in the finals since 2011 and not won a final of any sort since the 2009 grand final before last year. The Bulldogs fixed up both of those beating West Perth in the qualifying final before losing to grand finalists Subiaco and Peel.
Both Subiaco and South Fremantle have every reason to expect their teams to be right around the mark again in 2017 setting up a tantalising Round 1 battle.
Bounce down will take place at 4.15pm as well with South Fremantle trialling a handful of twilight home fixtures at Fremantle Community Bank Oval this season.
In order to get a Round 1 victory, South Fremantle needs to turn around its recent struggles against Subiaco.
The Lions have beaten the Bulldogs on the last six meetings with South Fremantle coach Todd Curley yet to taste victory against Subiaco in his two years at the helm.
Subiaco won all three games last year over South Fremantle winning by 31 points in Round 7, 11 points in Round 18 and then 40 in the second semi-final.
South Fremantle developed a winning team in 2016 and as a result there has been little reason to change much coming into 2017.
None of the regular members of the league side last year won't be around again this season but the Bulldogs welcome back premiership small forward Cory Dell'Olio with Jarrod Garlett returning from the Gold Coast Suns.
South Fremantle has also welcomed ruckman Jake Solomon from East Fremantle and he will lead the ruck in Round 1 with Brock Higgins still working his way back to full fitness.
Most of the rest of the Bulldogs team is up and going for Round 1 including defender Adam McIntosh on return from a broken leg that ended his 2016 prematurely.
Kyle Russell and Noah Strom are in the mix to make their league debuts for South Fremantle too.
Subiaco has been the dominant WAFL team of the last three years with three grand final appearances and two premierships, but the Lions have dealt with a fair degree of turnover with players.
This year is no different and Greg Broughton, Brett Mahoney, Brett Robinson, Hamish Shepheard, Simon Moore and Daniel Leishman among the regular players who haven’t remained in 2017.
Subiaco has done well to retool, though, signing Angus Litherland from Hawthorn along with former West Coast Eagles pair Rowen Powell and Corey Adamson.
Litherland, Adamson and Powell have all been named in the team for Round 1 as has Bailey Matera who the Lions signed from South Fremantle over the summer. Perth recruit Reid Polak is also in the mix to play along with Daniel Perkins from East Perth.
It will be a battle of the young ruckmen with Damon Guiness to make his debut for Subiaco and go up against Solomon from South Fremantle.
After being such strong teams last year, South Fremantle and Subiaco will both want to make an early statement in 2017 setting up a tremendous season-opener.
SOUTH FREMANTLE v SUBIACO – FREMANTLE COMMUNITY BANK OVAL, SATURDAY 4.15PM
Selected teams, live stats
Broadcast – Footy Radio (WAFL App)