WAFL v SANFL State Game Preview

Sunday, May 12, 2019 - 8:09 AM by Chris Pike

THE WAFL State Team is aiming to create more history on Sunday at Optus Stadium with the Black Swans side set to be heavy with South Fremantle representation.

The 2019 State Game will take place at Optus Stadium this Sunday from noon with the WAFL representative side take on the best of the SANFL.

The game will be held as a curtain-raiser to the AFL clash on Sunday afternoon between Fremantle and Richmond at Optus Stadium.

For those not in attendance, it will be beamed live on www.wafl.com.au and at the WAFL Facebook page. It will also be live on radio courtesy of 91.3 SportFM.

The WAFL State Team has announced a final squad of 27 players that will be trimmed to 23 in time for the start of the match on Sunday. That includes four South Fremantle players – Kade Stewart, Jacob Dragovich, Chad Pearson and Haiden Schloithe.

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If Stewart, Dragovich and Pearson are able to earn selection in the final 23 to play for the WAFL on Sunday, it will be the first State Game for the trio while Schloithe will be attempting to represent Western Australia for a third occasion in his career.

Stewart has returned to South Fremantle this season having spent 2016 and 2017 in the AFL at Hawthorn before spending a year back with Katanning in 2018.

He has made a strong start to the 2019 back with the Bulldogs averaging 21.6 possessions a game while also kicking five goals.

Dragovich is now a 67-game WAFL player and he has grabbed his increased on-ball opportunities at South Fremantle this season with both hands. He has made a stunning start to the season averaging 30.2 disposals a game across the opening five matches.

Pearson is another player to have taken his game to another level already in 2019. Having cemented his place in the Bulldogs team last year as an impressive defender, he has improved further this year both defensively and as a rounding backmen averaging 21.6 touches a game.

Then there is Schloithe. The 2017 Sandover Medallist and dual South Fremantle fairest and best winner is now a WAFL veteran of 133 games having also played in State Games in 2014 and 2017 in wins over the NEAFL in Sydney and VFL In Melbourne.

He has started the 2019 strongly once more averaging 23 possessions a game along with kicking eight goals.

Sunday's clash continues a long and storied tradition of State football between Western Australia and South Australia. The two proud footballing states have played a total of 94 times interstate football with WA moving ahead 48-46 in those battles with the victory in Adelaide last year.

The game will be played for the Haydn Bunton Cup, currently held by WA. Haydn Bunton Jnr is a legendary figure in both states having played 54 matches for North Adelaide, 97 for Norwood, 89 for Swan Districts and 59 for Subiaco.

He went on to coach (and play) Swan Districts to a hat-trick of WAFL premierships in 1961-62-63 and Subiaco to back-to-back flags in 1986 and 1988. He was also playing-coach at Norwood and coached at South Adelaide and Sturt.

The WAFL over the past six years has cemented itself as the strongest state league football competition with the six consecutive wins, including the historic away wins against Victoria in Melbourne and then South Australia at Adelaide Oval last year.

Michael Broadbridge will be coaching the KIA WAFL State Team for a third successive season and WA's final squad of 27, which will still be trimmed to 23 by game time looks to be an exciting one.

Of those 27 players, 10 have played AFL football while a further four were on AFL lists for at least one season without managing to break through for a debut appearance.

There are four Sandover Medal winners amongst the WAFL squad with Jye Bolton from Claremont now a dual winner of WA football's most prestigious individual award having won in 2016 and 2018. Haiden Schloithe won in 2017, Aaron Black in 2014 and Kane Mitchell in 2011.

The ruck brigade for the KIA WAFL State Team will be interesting without South Fremantle's Brock Higgins. That will leave versatile pair Lachlan Delahunty and Corey Gault from Subiaco and Swan Districts respectively to likely share the duties.

But whoever is in the ruck will have a strong midfield brigade at their feet led by Kyal Horsley, Bolton, Josh Deluca, Shane Nelson, Black, Schloithe, Kade Stewart, Leigh Kitchin, Jacob Dragovich, Mitchell and Declan Mountford.

The back-line for the WAFL State Team looks strong led by Subiaco pair Angus Litherland and Jordan Lockyer along with veterans Anton Hamp and Tony Notte. The run will come from Bailey Rogers (Claremont), Hayden Kennedy (Subiaco), Jackson Ramsay (East Perth) and Michael Sinclair (Perth).

Then up forward, it's an exciting blend of individual brilliance with the likes of Perth's Michael Bennell and Peel Thunder's Gerald Ugle along with the hardness of Peel Thunder's Blair Bell and then the ability of Subiaco's Ben Sokol to play both as a small and tall target.

It is an impressive looking KIA WAFL State Team that will be representing WA on Sunday at Optus Stadium and looking for that seventh consecutive victory, but the SANFL will be no pushovers.

South Australia isn’t accustomed to losing too often in State football and while they have lost three times over the past 11 years to the WAFL, they are their only defeats in period with the Croweaters having eight of their past 11 State clashes.

The SANFL will be coached by former Port Adelaide and Fremantle AFL star Josh Carr, who led North Adelaide to the SANFL premiership as coach in 2018.

It is a strong looking South Australian squad led by captain Jack Stephens with reigning Peel Thunder fairest and best winner, and former Port Adelaide and Fremantle AFL star, Danyle Pearce the vice-captain.

The SANFL squad also includes plenty of players that might be familiar names including Troy Menzel, Dom Barry, Aidan Tropiano, Kaine Stevens, Jared Petrenko, Cameron Sutcliffe and Tanner Smith.