WAFL 2022: Claremont Tigers to tackle strongest West Coast Eagles side of the season
Claremont’s top-three hopes could be dented by mere timing as they prepare to take on the strongest West Coast side fielded this WAFL season.
The Eagles are set to name up to 15 AFL-listed players for their clash against the Tigers at Revo Fitness Stadium on Saturday as a host of big names push to return to the senior side following injury lay-offs.
Premiership stars including Willie Rioli, Liam Ryan, Dom Sheed and mid-season draftee Jai Culley are set to feature in the game while the AFL side has the bye.
It comes after the Eagles have named as little as the minimum three required AFL-listed players for some games earlier this year. The most they’ve sported in the WAFL was nine in rounds one and two.
Winless West Coast have an average losing margin of 62 points this season and have not tasted victory since round 17 last year.
East Fremantle gained a 42 per cent boost after smashing the Eagles by 123 points last month, while fellow premiership contenders West Perth (81 points) and South Fremantle (78 points) have also beaten up on them.
West Coast lost to Swan Districts by just 20 points in their most competitive performance since round one and could have up to double the amount of AFL talent in the side, which could cost Claremont a similar percentage boost.
Claremont chief executive Darcy Coffey said the Tigers were aware of the reality around competition and the potential impacts on the ladder from the scenario but they would embrace the challenge of taking on a strong side.
“They’re allowed to have that many players, they’re not breaking any rules by playing all their available players,” Coffey said.
“We knew what we were getting into when they came into the competition, so I don’t think it’s an integrity issue in that sense.
“That’s the nature of injuries, we can’t whine and complain about it. It would’ve been nice to get them with few AFL players, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.”
Claremont sits third on the ladder and 20 per cent behind East Fremantle and West Perth, who both played the Eagles when they were at the height of their injury crisis.
Coffey said the reality was the percentage boosts other teams got from belting a weakened Eagles side could be the difference in final ladder positions, but it was “out of our control”.
“We can’t control who other teams are going to roll out on a given day or who’s available,” he said.
“It may come up at the end of the year, but we can’t control that.”
West Coast coach Rob Wiley said having the likes of Rioli and Ryan available for was “outstanding” for the WAFL.
“What I’ve seen this year is the AFL players coming back into the WAFL are very invested and their attitude about helping young men around them has been outstanding,” he said.
“It’s about us being unified as one club and there’s definitely what I’ve seen this year. It’s been outstanding.”
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