Seven Bulldogs named in WAFL State squad

Friday, May 4, 2018 - 11:30 AM by Chris Pike
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COMING off two straight preliminary finals appearances and a 3-1 start to the 2018 WAFL season, it's no surprise to see seven South Fremantle players named in the West Australian squad for next Saturday's State match against South Australia in Adelaide.

Ryan Cook, Ashton Hams, Brock Higgins, Blaine Johnson, Ben Saunders, Haiden Schloithe and Nick Suban are the seven players from South Fremantle included in the WAFL squad for next Saturday's clash with the SANFL.

Cook, Hams, Saunders and Schloithe have all combined to play for WA on 14 occasions previously on top of sharing two Simpson Medals while if selected, Higgins, Johnson and Suban will pull on the Black Swans jumper for the first time.

The WAFL State team has been on a tremendous run in State matches in recent years with the winning streak beginning in 2013 against the VFL in Northam. 

That was followed up by a win against the NEAFL in Sydney and home victories against the SANFL and Tasmania at Lathlain Park and Steel Blue Oval respectively over 2015 and 2016.

But it was last year when the WAFL really showed how far the competition has come with an emphatic 63-point victory against the VFL in Melbourne that created history for WA football on Victorian soil.

Now the next step for the WAFL State side is to knock off South Australia in Adelaide and that chance presents next Saturday against the SANFL at Adelaide Oval with the game played ahead of the AFL contest between Port Adelaide and Adelaide.

South Fremantle is set to have a strong representation in the WAFL team with Cook a chance to play his seventh game for WA is selected. 

This is his eighth season with the Bulldogs and in six of the past seven seasons he has played in a state game and become South Fremantle's longest serving captain in the process. 

This is his first season since relinquishing the captaincy with the Bulldogs but the 142-game is having another solid season averaging 16 disposals.

Hams played in three consecutive state games prior to missing last year's win against Victoria having played in the wins over the NEAFL, SANFL and Tasmania. 

He won the Simpson Medal in 2014 against the NEAFL in Sydney on top of the Grand Final Simpson Medal he won in 2009 as part of his career that has now included two premierships and 193 matches with the Bulldogs.

Saunders has now kicked 278 goals in 104 matches with the Bulldogs and has won three Bernie Naylor Medals along the way as the competition's leading goalkicker.

While he has proven himself an outstanding goalkicker at WAFL level, Saunders has also shown he is more than ready to step up in state games. He has kicked 16 goals in three games for WA including winning the Simpson Medal last year.

Schloithe first represented the WAFL against the NEAFL in Sydney in 2014 before also playing in last year's win over the VFL in Melbourne as part of a year that saw him end up claiming the Sandover Medal and South Fremantle fairest and best award as well.

On the back of that remarkable season, the 112-game star has again started 2018 strongly with South Fremantle averaging 22.8 possessions and kicking eight goals.

Higgins appears in line to lead the WA ruck brigade against South Australia in what would be the State debut for the South Fremantle big man. 

He has now racked up 108 WAFL appearances between East Perth and South Fremantle, but it's with the Bulldogs he has really made his mark as a workhorse ruckman. He is having a tremendous start to 2018 averaging 14.5 disposals and 37.0 hit outs a game.

Johnson is again leading South Fremantle's goalkicking tally so far in 2018 with eight goals from the four matches as he continues to be one of the WAFL's most dangerous forwards.

He kicked 59 goals in 23 matches last year to lead South Fremantle's tally for the season and that was on the back of 35 goals in 20 games of 2016. He is now line to play for the WAFL for the first time too.

Suban, too, is in line to make his State debut having joined South Fremantle this season on the back of a 156-game AFL career with Fremantle. He is a triple WAFL premiership player as well and has been tremendous so far in 2018 for the Bulldogs both off half-back and through the middle.

Broadbridge is coaching the WAFL State team for the second time and likes the mix of players included in the squad as WA tries to beat a South Australian team in Adelaide for the first time since 1994.

"The players we’ve selected in the squad so far is based on who has displayed the best form so far this season, so it’s reward for performance," Broadbridge said.

"I think we’ve got a really good cross section of players who have state experience, AFL experience and others that deserve a chance based on their form.

"This initial squad will form the core of the State team but we definitely don’t want to rule anyone out. We will be watching games over the next couple of weeks and have a few players in mind that we might include to fill a required role or from a team balance point of view."
 
Broadbridge said the game would also be a great chance for players to experience playing at Adelaide Oval and showcase their talent as WA aims to record another away win over a fierce interstate rival.

"Playing the game as an AFL curtain raiser is a great opportunity and I’m sure there will be a big hometown crowd supporting the local team, so it’s definitely going to be a challenge," Broadbridge said.

"I have no doubt we will see two very competitive teams that will have a similar make-up in terms of talent and experience. It’s a big opportunity for the WAFL to firm up our position as what we believe is the best state league competition in Australia.  

"It will also be a great opportunity for players, like Tim Kelly did last year, to show how they can perform and potentially open doors to the AFL."

Meanwhile, Luke Moore, Kyle Hamersley and Regan Spooner are the South Fremantle players included in the WA State 18s squad to be selected to play in the AFL National 18s Championships starting on Sunday June 3 against South Australia at Adelaide's Alberton Oval.

Ira Jetta and Jaxon Bellchambers have all been named from South Fremantle in the WA State 16s squad as well.

The campaign for WA in the AFL National 16s Championships begins on Sunday June 24 against South Australia also at Alberton Oval.

WAFL STATE SQUAD
Claremont – Jye Bolton, Kane Mitchell
East Fremantle – Jonathon Marsh, Jayden Schofield
East Perth – Sharrod Wellingham
Peel Thunder – Blair Bell, Gerald Ugle
Perth – Cody Leggett
South Fremantle – Ryan Cook, Ashton Hams, Brock Higgins, Blaine Johnson, Ben Saunders, Haiden Schloithe, Nick Suban
Subiaco – Lachlan Delahunty, Aaron Heal, Kyal Horsley, Leigh Kitchin, Angus Litherland, Jordan Lockyer, Chris Phelan, Ben Sokol, Brad Stevenson, Rhys Waters
Swan Districts – Corey Gault, Tony Notte, Rhys Palmer, Kirk Ugle
West Perth – Aaron Black, Luke Meadows, Shane Nelson, Andrew Strijk