The only grand finalists who won’t be on East Fremantle Oval are Kody Manning (suspended), Jason Salecic (retired), Josh Mellington (east) and Mark Hutchings (East Perth).
The players have earned that right, not only with their performances last year, but with their hard training over the summer.
Breckler medallist Andrew Strijk has recovered from off-season shoulder surgery and is fit to play. He’s been in full training, including contact work, for four or five weeks now.
It’s a privilege to play in round one, but even more of a privilege this season as it’s a premiership defence year.
For this reason, I’ll be giving the side a decent reminder about the expectations upon them to put in a solid performance against the Sharks.
As of Saturday, what they did in last year’s grand final is irrelevant. All that matters is what they do this weekend.
The players are heading into unfamiliar territory as defending premiers. It’s obviously new to me and the coaching staff too.
Salecic was the only player who had experienced a premiership follow-up, but now that he’s retired, it’s a unique experience for all at the club.
I’ve been buoyed by the players’ attitude to still work hard and want to improve.
East Fremantle is a dangerous side.
They’ve got talented player Brock O’Brien as well as former West Coast footballers Brad Dalziell and Jamie McNamara all back full time.
I expect them to be a serious challenger for a spot in the finals this year.
It will be a war of attrition this weekend and is likely to go down to the wire.