THE Rockingham Vipers embark on a new gridiron campaign tomorrow with its goal for the season to achieve a ‘three-peat’ after winning the Gridiron West title for the past two seasons in a row and being undefeated.
Junior and senior players had their final training sessions at Anniversary Park on Thursday night before the 2016-17 season kicks off, with the league playing all its games in Rockingham for the first seven rounds of the competition.
Vipers vice president Roberto ‘Mex’ Rojas said the Vipers came off a great season last year after the seniors won the final 50-0 against the Perth Broncos.
The junior side won its final, defeating the Claremont Jets 58-28.
“We’ve had two undefeated seasons and we’ve got a lot of new players,” he said.
“We’ve been successful and we aim to keep the atmosphere and intensity very high and getting a three-peat is our motto for the year.”
He said popularity in the sport was gradually increasing and was helped when rugby league player Jarred Hayne tried out as a running back with the San Francisco 49ers last year.
“A lot of players were interested after seeing Hayne play and thought ‘I’d like to give that a go’,” he said.
He said most players played Australian rules, soccer or rugby during the winter, and played gridiron to try a new sport and keep fit over the summer months.
Rojas, who plays as an offensive lineman, said it was hard work playing with all the protective equipment in the heat, but there were regular water breaks and regular Friday and Saturday night games.
The Vipers have a large group of juniors interested in the sport, with ages ranging from 14 to 19, coached by all-Australian running back Nate Lansdell.
Among them are brothers running back Mitchell (16) and quarterback Liam (18) Crookes, who represented Australia at an international competition in China earlier this year.
They played against teams from Austria, China and Japan after taking part in an 11-day training camp in Queensland.
And while the trip was a great learning experience, the brothers suffered injuries with Mitchell breaking his wrist and Liam tearing his posterior cruciate ligament and they will be out of action for some time.
The club is looking for more coaches to help out in specialist positions.
The gridiron action starts at noon tomorrow, with the Vipers taking on the Karawara-based Perth Blitz at 4.45pm (juniors) and 6.45pm (seniors).