THE WAFL season resumes this Saturday with a full round of action and it's one of the highlights of the year with the celebration of NAIDOC Week to coincide with five critical and fascinating match ups.
Round 13 of the 2021 Optus WAFL Premiership Season was forced to be postponed last weekend because of the COVID-19 restrictions, but all that has served to do is built up the anticipation even further for this weekend.
All five WAFL matches for NAIDOC Round take place on Saturday afternoon and it's highlighted by the now annual Jimmy Melbourne Cup fixture between South Fremantle and Claremont. The Grand Final rematch takes place at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.
East Fremantle will also host Peel Thunder at New Choice Homes Park with both teams trying to stay in touch for a finals position while Perth will attempt to be significantly more competitive against Subiaco when they meet at Leederville Oval.
It should be a fascinating derby between West Perth and East Perth at Joondalup's Provident Financial Oval also on Saturday afternoon while the fifth placed Swan Districts are at home to the West Coast Eagles at Steel Blue Oval in Bassendean.
With every game having implications for the top five in one way or another and then with all teams decked out in the striking Aboriginal art-inspired jumpers in honour of NAIDOC Week and it is shaping as one of the most fascinating rounds of the 2021 season.
East Fremantle and Peel meet at New Choice Homes Park with both teams looking to stay in the battle for a top five spot.
The Sharks lost two weeks ago at home to the West Coast Eagles and with a 4-6 record, they are two games out of the top five and needing a win over the Thunder on Saturday.
The Thunder are even more desperate for a win, though, having now lost five in-a-row to have slipped to a 3-7 record to be already three games out of fifth spot coming into the weekend.
East Fremantle's jumper design was created by Reuben McGuire and is centre around a Waarang-ba (blue shark) which is a creature known to roam up and down the costs of WA entering the areas of Yamatji people and south to the Nyoongar nation.
The Peel Thunder jumper design was originally created by Alan and Mandy Davis in 2019 incorporating the three rivers that bring the Peel region together with the circle at the bottom signifying the meeting place.
There are four changes at East Fremantle highlighted by the return of Geelong champion Harry Taylor. He is joined in the team by Ryan Lester-Smith, Corey Warner and Reuben McGuire.
Cody Leggett, Morgan Davies, Durak Tucker and Finn Gorringe go out for the Sharks.
There are plenty of changes at Peel too with Blair Bell, Jackson Knight, Ethan Hughes, Taylin Duman, Hayden Young, James Sturrock and Tyrone Thorne into the line-up.
Will Schofield, Reece Conca, Bailey Banfield, Nathan O'Driscoll, Lloyd Meek, Connor Blakely and Roy George out for the Thunder.
Subiaco and Perth only last met one another back in Round 9 and on that Thursday night at Lathlain's Mineral Resources Park, the Lions kept the Demons goalless for over three quarters on their way to an eventual 98-point hammering.
Since then, the Lions have actually lost two games in-a-row to the West Coast Eagles and Swan Districts heading into Saturday's clash at Leederville Oval.
Perth has kept losing since as well going down to East Fremantle by 26 points and South Fremantle by 34.
That means Subiaco is coming into Saturday's game in second position with a 7-3 record and need to win to stay second while Perth is at 4-6 and needing to snap their losing slide to stay in touch for a top five position.
Subiaco's jumper design was created by Kevin Bynder with the painting showing Lake Gwelup and Lake Karrinyup surrounded by the sandhills of Millington Reserve where Des Headland played his junior football.
The Perth jumper was designed by their own league player Sam Stubbs and is a stunning design incorporating the regular Demons red sash while including an inner circle along with two boomerings and eight water holes on the back.
From the Subiaco team that lost to Swans by a point, Hayden Kennedy, Oskar Matthews and Josh Robbins come in while Jacob Miller, Lewis Putt and James Faraone go out for the Lions.
Perth lost to South Fremantle two weeks ago and from that side, Matthew Rogers, Jye Clark and Matthew Taylor return at the expense of Doulton Langlands, Simon Hayward and Jack Steel.
West Perth and East Perth were both in good form before last week's break setting the stage for a tantalising derby at Provident Financial Oval on Saturday.
The Falcons went into the unscheduled week off on a three-game winning streak to hold a 6-4 record to be two games and percentage clear in fourth position.
The Royals had gone on a winning streak for the first time this season too stringing together victories against South Fremantle and Peel Thunder to improve to a 3-7 record.
West Perth's design was a collaborative effort between Sasha Kernutt and Shannon Taylor. The artwork captures the story of the Falcon which is West Perth's mascot in line with the club's jumper design with a blue sash on the red background.
East Perth's design came courtesy of the legendary Dr Richard Walley OAM and sees the top design representing the families and community coming together through football. The design depicts the strong sense of club bringing everyone together.
West Perth won impressively two weeks ago and from that team, the Falcons have made no changes.
East Perth also is coming off a good win over Peel and from that side, Matthew Young and Aidan Lynch return while Ajang Ajang and Harley Sparks make room.
Steel Blue Oval should host a fascinating battle too with Swan Districts looking to consolidate their top five position while the Eagles won their first two games of the season prior to last week's break.
Swan Districts come into the game in fifth position with a 6-4 record on the season and on the back of beating Subiaco by a solitary point in a drought breaking victory over the Lions two weeks ago.
Swans have now won three of their past four matches to be building some momentum and coming into Round 14, they are two games and percentage clear in fifth position.
A win on Saturday and the black-and-whites will take another huge step towards locking in their finals return and a first finals appearance under the coaching of Adam Pickering.
The Eagles aren’t going to be any pushovers on Saturday, though, even if they do sit on the bottom of the WAFL ladder with a 2-8 record.
However, those two wins for West Coast came in their last two matches prior to the break against Subiaco by five points and East Fremantle by 51 points.
The two teams did meet back in Round 3 also at Steel Blue Oval with Swans winning on that occasion by 39 points but the Eagles have managed to get some troops back since then and are a much more competitive outfit now.
From the Swan Districts team that beat Subiaco by a point two weeks ago, they have made just the one change with Jak Watson coming in while Alex Howard goes out.
And from the Eagles team that won big over the Sharks a fortnight ago, there are a whole heap of changes most of them forced through either injury or AFL selection.
Jake Waterman, Isaih Winder, Connor West, Seb Bentley, Lennon Marlin, Ben Johnson, Jordan Busher, Cooper Nitschke and Harry Sinclair are all the players to come into the West Coast team.
Meanwhile, Zac Langdon, Jarrod Brander, Nathan Vardy, Alex Witherden, Xavier O'Neill, Luke Foley, Jamaine Jones, Brendon Ah Chee and Will Collins are those to go out for the Eagles.
Swan Districts will be wearing a jumper in celebration of NAIDOC Week that was designed by Edward Lyndon, Clayton Graham and Jamison Ugle. It is highlighted by a Swan, known as a Maali, and features the Maali swimming on the Swan River (Derbari Yerrigan).
The design also features an oval shape depicting Steel Blue Oval along with symbols for the 10 WAFL clubs and nine grounds they play at. The Swan footprints then illustrate travelling to play opposition teams and all in all, it's a striking design.
West Coast's jumper was created by Darryl Bellotti and it is made up of a rainbow serpent (Waugul) as it travels the land and watches over the West Coast Eagles on their journey to the MCG for the Grand Final.
The traditional NAIDOC Round clash features South Fremantle and Claremont, and the Bulldogs and Tigers will be battling over the Jimmy Melbourne Cup once again on Saturday at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.
Not only do both clubs have a remarkable history with Indigenous players and the Aboriginal culture, but the game could very well end up being a defining one in the seasons of both clubs.
They met in last year's Grand Final at the same venue with South Fremantle winning a remarkable contest over Claremont, and then in their earlier meeting this season at Revo Fitness Stadium it was the Tigers beating the Bulldogs by 16 points in Round 2.
Little separates the two teams now coming into Round 14 as well with all teams having played 10 matches. Claremont sits on top of the ladder at 8-2 while South Fremantle is third at 7-2 meaning Saturday's game is going to be significant.
A win for the Tigers and suddenly they are two games clear of the Bulldogs and looking good at least for a top two finish.
But a win for South Fremantle and suddenly they will be on the same record and right now there's only five percentage points between them. That would close up with a Bulldogs victory on Saturday as well.
The South Fremantle Indigenous jersey for NAIDOC Round was created by Shardah Jetta-Farmer. It still includes the club's famous Red V which represents the path to the meeting place which is found in the centre of the jumper.
The boomerings featured symbolise the South Fremantle players going into battle while the Swan River is depicted at the bottom of the jumper which will be worn proudly.
Claremont's jumper has been designed by Tigers product Francis Watson and is made up of artwork to recognise honey ants and ant holes, communities, a blue curved line and the meeting places.
South Fremantle beat Perth a fortnight ago and from that team, captain Dylan Main and fellow premiership pair Brandon Donaldson and Zac Dent return.
Jarrad Doney, Travis Abbot and Jarrod Salmeri are the players to lose their place in the team at the Bulldogs.
Claremont lost to West Perth two weeks ago and the Tigers have made a huge call at selection with the dropping of former captain, premiership star and Sandover Medallist Kane Mitchell.
He is joined out of the team by Anthony Treacy and Anton Hamp with Lachlan Martinis, Max Spyvee and Ben Elliott coming in.
OPTUS WAFL PREMIERSHIP SEASON – NAIDOC ROUND
EAST FREMANTLE (4-6, 6th) v PEEL THUNDER (3-7, 8th) – NEW CHOICE HOMES PARK, SATURDAY 2.10PM
Live scores, stats
Livestream: The West Australian
SUBIACO (7-3, 2nd) v PERTH (4-6, 7th) – LEEDERVILLE OVAL, SATURDAY 2.10PM
Live scores, stats
Livestream: Front Row Screens
WEST PERTH (6-4, 4th) v EAST PERTH (3-7, 9th) – PROVIDENT FINANCIAL OVAL, SATURDAY 2.10PM
Live scores, stats
Radio: 91.3 SportFM
SWAN DISTRICTS (6-4, 5th) v WEST COAST EAGLES (2-8, 10th) – STEEL BLUE OVAL, SATURDAY 2.10PM
Live scores, stats
Livestream: The West Australian
SOUTH FREMANTLE (7-3, 3rd) v CLAREMONT (8-2, 1st) – FREMANTLE COMMUNITY BANK OVAL, SATURDAY 2.40PM
Live scores, stats
TV: Channel 7