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WAFL v SANFL 2022 State Game PreviewFriday, May 13, 2022 - 11:45 AM - by Chris Pike

THE WAFL State Team will be attempting to break a deadlock from State Games with South Australia that stretches back 118 years when the two proud football states do battle at Optus Stadium on Sunday.

It will be the 97th meeting between Western Australia and South Australia when the best of the WAFL and best of the SANFL lock horns for the 2022 edition of the State Game.

The contest will be held at Optus Stadium on Sunday with bounce down set for midday with the Haydn Bunton Cup up for grabs.

It will be the 97th meeting in history between WA and South Australia, and remarkably over the past 117 years, those previous 96 meetings have seen 48 victories for the Black Swans and 48 for the Croweaters.

That means that the winner of Sunday's clash will take a lead in the overall head-to-head record but more than that, it's the Haydn Bunton Cup and bragging rights as the best state competition also up for grabs.

Since Victoria decided to pull out of the interstate fixtures following a 2017 loss to the WAFL, it's been WA and South Australia who have begun meeting on an annual basis outside of the COVID interrupted 2020 season.

Back in 2018, it was the WAFL who broke a drought in Adelaide by beating the SANFL by 26 points at Adelaide Oval. A year later at Optus Stadium and it was the Croweaters beating the Sandgropers by seven points.

Then last year with hostilities resumed, it was back to Adelaide Oval with South Australia beating WA by 53 points.

Now a new-look WAFL State Team under the coaching of Cam Shepherd will be out to get a measure of revenge for that loss last year, to reclaim the Haydn Bunton Cup and to be the first to 49 wins in the overall head-to-head battle.

Shepherd has taken on the WAFL coaching role after his time at the helm of Peel Thunder ended following the 2021 on the back of a historic dual premiership winning stint in charge.

He is looking forward to the occasion on Sunday at Optus Stadium.

"I think you've got the two best competitions, clearly, outside the AFL at the moment and there's a heck of a lot of interest in a lot of players who are running around and playing some extremely good football whether they are 20 or 30 years of age," Shepherd told 91.3 SportFM.

"They are really proud young men who are keen to show us their performance on the best stage they possibly can, and that's at Optus Stadium on Sunday."

While the final 23 players selected to represent the WAFL on Sunday have only a combined 30 appearances in the black-and-gold jumper, it's an experienced squad led by captain Leigh Kitchin, West Perth skipper Aaron Black and Subiaco big man Lachlan Delahunty.

That trio have played a combined 17 State games, 495 WAFL matches and won 10 premierships between them.

Other players with previous WAFL State Team experience are Claremont's reigning Sandover Medallist Bailey Rogers, Subiaco spearhead Ben Sokol, South Fremantle's Chad Pearson, East Fremantle's Cam Eardley and Jonathon Marsh, and West Perth trio Luke Meadows, Noah Pegoraro and Tyler Keitel.

However, even of the players set to make their State debuts, they have plenty of experience as well including East Fremantle captain Matthew Jupp who has been named vice-captain and has 145 WAFL matches under his belt at the Sharks.

Claremont's Ryan Lim has also played 134 WAFL matches, Perth co-captain Fraser McInnes 148 along with time in the AFL at the West Coast Eagles, and Swan Districts' co-captain Jesse Turner is also a veteran of 105 WAFL games.

Then there is West Perth goal sneak Keegan Knott (86 WAFL games), South Fremantle's Noah Strom (76), East Perth ruckman Scott Jones (68), West Perth defender Zac Guadagnin (67), South Fremantle's Jake Florenca (56), Subiaco's Stefan Giro (29), Subiaco's Chad Harris (22) and East Perth's Angus Schumacher (20).

While there will be 12 players playing in their first State Game representing the WAFL, Shepherd couldn't be happier with the squad he will have at his disposal.

"We will have quite a few debut players but a lot of them will be really experienced. Jesse Turner will play on the wing and he's played over 100 games is 26 years old," he said.

"There's others too like Matt Jupp and Zac Guadagnin who will play their first games if selected and they are good, strong WAFL players. They're not the young guns of last year, they're more really experienced players who we think deserve an opportunity based on their performances over many years."

While Shepherd and his WAFL coaching staff will put some effort and energy into preparing for the key players in the SANFL line-up, he wants to make sure they are focused on playing to their strengths first before worrying too much about the opposition.

"I think today you can learn a fair bit from all the vision you can get and the people on the ground you've got with scouts and recruits that can give you some understanding, but we really only isolate four or five players we think are going to be really dangerous for them," Shepherd said.

"We want to go out and play our way. We understand that we're up against a good opponent but if you worry about so much about the opponent all the time, that's all you'll do and you won't go out and make the play yourself. 

"We're really keen to make sure that our focus initially is on how we play, how strong we are in the contest, that we maintain balance and we're complimentary of each other."

While the WA team will be focusing on playing to their potential and strengths, Shepherd and his coaching staff are fully aware of what sort of talent, experience and danger the SANFL team presents as the opposition on Sunday.

"Daniel Menzel has kicked 22 goals in six games this season and he's clearly been a fine player of a long period of time so he's someone we have to be careful of in their forward-line," Shepherd said.

"On top of that their captain Liam McBean is over two-metres and kicked three goals in the same game last year, and is a good fine forward. They have two quality rucks in Boyd and Ballenden, and their small forwards Williams and Menzie are dangerous. 

"Then their midfielders are really competent with Nunn, Coomblas and plenty of good players around the place, and their backs are honest. Voss off half-back will be a good player, Spina played really well last year and they are going to be a good team."

Optus Stadium, Sunday 12.00pm AWST
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Zac Guadagnin, Noah Strom, Matthew Jupp
HB: Bailey Rogers, Chad Pearson, Cam Eardley
C: Jesse Turner, Jake Florenca, Ryan Lim
HF: Angus Schumacher, Fraser McInnes, Jonathon Marsh
F: Tyler Keitel, Ben Sokol, Keegan Knott

RUCK: Scott Jones, Aaron Black, Leigh Kitchin (C) 
INT (from): Chad Harris, Stefan Giro, Noah Pegoraro, Lachlan Delahunty, Luke Meadows

Alex Spina, Kaiden Brand, Will Coomblas
HB: Casey Voss, Sam Durdin, Joseph Sinor
C: Harrison Wigg, Riley Knight, Matt Allen
HF: Keenan Ramsey, Connor Ballenden, Nik Rokahr
F: Jye Menzie, Liam McBean (C), Zane Williams

RUCK: Harry Boyd, Matthew Nunn, Campbell Combe
INT (from): Daniel Menzel, Tom Keough, Hayden Sampson, Josh Carmichael, Mitch O'Neill