NPFL teams ready to do battle in new season

Shannon Beattie and Alexander ScottPilbara News
Kats' Corey Byrne breaks free in a 2018 game against the Sharks.
Camera IconKats' Corey Byrne breaks free in a 2018 game against the Sharks. Credit: Pilbara News

A new season of the North Pilbara Football League kicks off this weekend and teams have already spent months in training getting ready to take their best shot at the premiership.

ThePilbara News took a look at how the teams are shaping up and what fans can expect for the season ahead.

Karratha Kats

Last year’s premiers Karratha Kats clawed their way to victory by 23 points and claimed their first home-ground premiership in 15 years.

In 2019, coach John Wellington wanted to put an emphasis on having a strong but enjoyable pre-season and keeping the team injury-free.

“We’ve certainly put some miles in the boys’ legs but it hasn’t felt long or draining,” he said.

“There’s a great vibe around the footy club. I think the boys are fitter and stronger, and we’re really looking forward to kicking off.”

Despite taking it all the way last year, the team aren’t getting ahead of themselves, focusing first on winning enough games to make finals and then aiming to finish in the top two again.

“We want to give ourselves every opportunity to claim the title again,” Wellington said.

“If we can assert our authority early on, we’ll give ourselves a really good chance at getting another a home grand final.”

Kats’ Chase Rye makes a pass.
Camera IconKats’ Chase Rye makes a pass. Credit: Pilbara News, Alicia Perera

Wickham Wolves

The Wolves had a strong season last year and were the minor premiers until the grand final, in which they were outclassed by the Kats.

In the pre-season, the team has had to deal with the loss of about a dozen players from last season, who have moved on from the area.

Coach Glen Higgins said it had put them into a bit of a re-building stage.

“We’ve mainly lost guys that have been around the mark, they play week-in, week-out and offer that consistency and depth,” he said.

“We’ve got some young guys stepping up who have had a big pre-season, so it’ll be good to see how they go in the actual games.”

Higgins and the team are still positive and are hopeful of making finals again.

“We’ve had a long pre-season and the guys are saying they can’t wait to get out there and get amongst it,” he said.

Swans and Wolves players fly for a mark.
Camera IconSwans and Wolves players fly for a mark. Credit: Pilbara News, Alicia Perera

South Hedland Swans

The Swans had a solid 2018 season with a third-place finish and a spot in the preliminary finals.

It was left to the reserves to claim grand final victory for the club.

The club has had strong turnouts during pre-season training, with up to 65 people attending and numbers improving as weeks go on.

President Josh Nannup said there was a good feeling at the club with new coach Clint Ernst and they were looking at going deep into the finals this year

“We want to continually improve on and off the field, but it all depends on how you end up end of season in terms of injuries and if players come good end of season,” he said.

Nannup said the club was looking forward to continuing the development of young male and female players around Hedland.

“As a club we’re looking forward to every game and looking forward to developing younger players and the women’s team, the South Hedland Swanettes,” he said.

Rowan Lawson kicks out of defence for the South Hedland Swans league team, against Port Hedland Rovers.
Camera IconRowan Lawson kicks out of defence for the South Hedland Swans league team, against Port Hedland Rovers. Credit: Picture: Robert Dougherty

Dampier Sharks

The Dampier Sharks had a mixed 2018 season.

They managed six wins for the season and a finals berth but were booted out in the first round. However, they did have some impressive wins throughout the year.

With ex-Docker Steven Dodd taking the reins earlier this year, after the departure of coach Beau MacDonald, the team’s numbers are up on previous years.

“We’ve had some great players come on-board and I’ll be playing as well as coaching,” Dodd said.

“We’ve got the ability to match it with the best teams in the comp and our definite goal is to finish higher than last year.”

Having not won a flag since 2009, the Sharks will be hungry for success.

Kats' Rhys Holdman tries to stop Sharks' Chris Wailu.
Camera IconKats' Rhys Holdman tries to stop Sharks' Chris Wailu. Credit: Pilbara News, Alicia Perera

Karratha Falcons

The Falcons had a disappointing 2018 season, with just two wins for the season and finishing second-to-last. Coach Cameron Ling said things were looking a bit bleak for the club a month or so ago, but they were starting to look up.

“We lost a fair few talented players and our numbers haven’t been great, but they’ve slowly been picking up towards the start of the season,” he said.

Despite their issues, Ling has faith the boys can win some games.

“I’m confident that we can have a crack this year, it’s more about the boys committing to the game plan and style,” he said. “Our aim is to play finals. It’s great if we get there, but if we don’t it’s another stepping stone and as long as we win more games than last year, that’s a win for us.”

A Karratha Falcons player moves the footy forward.
Camera IconA Karratha Falcons player moves the footy forward. Credit: North West Telegraph

Port Hedland Rovers

The Port Hedland Rovers had a difficult 2018, notching up just the one win and some huge defeats, namely a 257-point bloodbath at the hands of the Wolves. Coach Troy Melville said increased numbers in the weeks leading up to the season had added depth and continued development of younger players should turn close games into wins. “As far as footy goes our goal is to play finals, it’s not unrealistic,” he said.

Melville said he hoped to continue to develop the players’ attributes and skill sets to make them better players and members of the community.

“Mostly we want to continue to improve — last year we got a lot of things right but we didn’t get the on-field success,” he said.

“If we continue the off-field stuff and the development of players, we’ll be able to get the on-field results.”

Rovers and Sharks players rush for the ball.
Camera IconRovers and Sharks players rush for the ball. Credit: Grace Colarusso

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