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Round 1 Optus WAFL PreviewThursday, April 1, 2021 - 1:19 PM - by Chris Pike

THERE is great anticipation ahead for the 2021 Optus WAFL Premiership Season and it all gets underway on Good Friday with two big match ups ahead of three on Saturday highlighted by a preliminary final rematch from last year.

Despite the 2020 WAFL season having a delayed start, once it got up and going it proved to be a great success and in a COVID-19 affected world, having the competition back up and running actually proved a significant boon for the community at large.

The end result was an exciting season and that included Perth breaking through in remarkable fashion to play finals in the WAFL for the first time since 1997 before a memorable and emotional Grand Final day took place at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.

It proved to be quite the occasion with the venue packed to capacity and then it proved to be a Grand Final for the ages with South Fremantle beating Claremont by three points in a classic to claim their first premiership since 2009.

So now with the world beginning to get back to something close to normal, we are beginning the 2021 WAFL season this Eastern Weekend and we are back to a full 10-team competition with the West Coast Eagles Reserves back up and running.

Meanwhile, the Fremantle Dockers will be resuming their partnership with Peel Thunder after AFL-listed players weren’t permitted to play in the WAFL in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

So there's great excitement right across the board for the WAFL season in 2021 and it all gets underway what is now becoming two traditional Good Friday match ups.

They both bounce down at 4.10pm with Peel Thunder taking on East Fremantle at Mandurah's David Grays Arena while the Leederville Oval co-tenants Subiaco and East Perth will also be locking horns.

The other three Round 1 matches then take place on Saturday afternoon starting at 12.30pm with Perth taking on the West Cost Eagles at Lathlain's Mineral Resources Park.

The other two Saturday contests begin at 2.10pm with South Fremantle beginning its premiership defence against West Perth at Fremantle Community Bank Oval with Swan Districts also facing Claremont at Bassendean's Steel Blue Oval.

The opening round gets underway on Good Friday with Peel Thunder hosting East Fremantle in Mandurah.

Peel had its struggles last year without the availability of Fremantle players and little time to prepare for that accordingly. 

While they have lost Hayden Ballantyne, they've signed Will Schofield who looks capable of plenty still post his AFL career and they'll be looking to get off to a good start on Good Friday against the Sharks.

East Fremantle didn’t quite improve as they would have hoped in 2020 but the time appears now for the Sharks begin that climb up the ladder under coach Bill Monaghan.

The Sharks have added some talent led by Jonathon Marsh, Hugh Dixon and Josh Schoenfeld straight out of the AFL system, but they just need to find some avenues to goal. That's going to be fascinating to see where the goals come from in Round 1 against Peel.

The other Good Friday contest is now an annual affair between Leederville Oval co-tenants Subiaco and East Perth.

Having dominated the competition, Subiaco came down to earth with a thud in 2020 missing the finals but the Lions will be desperate to hit back hard and quickly in 2021 starting on Friday.

Life without Kyal Horsley is going to take some getting used to while Rhys Waters and Ben Newton leave holes to be filled, but they had a horror injury run last year so they have some players back healthy that are virtually new recruits.

The Lions have then also added Brandon Matera fresh out of the AFL along with a couple of other promising recruits including Lewis Putt who was more of a renowned national league water polo player with the UWA Torpedoes before now trying his hand at being a WAFL ruckman.

Then there is East Perth as the Royals try to build on a promising 2020 campaign where they put themselves in the hunt to return to finals action with some encouraging performances.

Then on Saturday, first up is Perth and the West Coast Eagles taking on one another at the Lathlain venue they both call home.

Perth is coming off ending their finals drought in 2020 in stirring fashion before losing to West Perth. The Demons now have a new coach with Garry Moss replacing Earl Spalding, and they have some handy inclusions including the full-time signings of Fraser McInnes, Brady Grey and Andrew Fisher.

The Eagles return to the WAFL in 2021 and their success or otherwise will largely depend on which AFL-listed players from West Coast they have available week to week.

Next up on Saturday is a preliminary final rematch from last year with South Fremantle hosting West Perth at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.

On the back of three losing preliminary finals and a Grand Final, South Fremantle broke through to win the WAFL premiership in 2020 and now on the back of that, the majority of group is back aside from Kade Stewart, Steve Verrier and Chris Luff.

They have also welcomed back Matthew Parker and Cam McCarthy from the AFL with Steven Edwards also returning while they have recruited key position player Blake Schlensog from Geelong.

The Bulldogs will be looking to begin their premiership defence in style at home to the team they beat in last year's preliminary final. 

But the Falcons always find a way to make themselves competitive even though in terms of personnel, they have lost two key players Michael Lourey and Luke Meadows from their 2020 side.

The final game of the round is between a Swan Districts team trying to rise up the ladder in 2021 and a Claremont side with a new coach but trying to build on reaching the Grand Final last year.

Swans have made potentially the biggest signing in the off-season welcoming back dual AFL premiership player Lewis Jetta along with Chris Jones and Jesse Palmer. But they do lose class and experience in George Hampson and Steven Payne.

Claremont has had quite the eventful off-season after last year's Grand Final loss to South Fremantle. Ashley Prescott has returned as coach to replace Darren Harris while Alec Waterman is with Essendon, and Ryan Nyhuis, Jeremy Goddard and Haydn Busher have departed.

But the Tigers have added some exciting talent in the form of Anthony Treacy, Jake Patmore, Francis Watson, Isaiah Butters and Jason Carter.


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