Top four sides all but certain in lead-up to NPFL finals

Shannon Beattie and Alexander ScottPilbara News
Wolves’ Nelson Ansey escapes Falcons’ Dylan Foster-Reed.
Camera IconWolves’ Nelson Ansey escapes Falcons’ Dylan Foster-Reed. Credit: Pilbara News

There’s two games left of the home and away North Pilbara Football League season and the top four is all but certain.

Wickham Wolves and Karratha Kats have first and second locked up between them for the second year in a row.

Port Hedland Rovers and Dampier Sharks will likely finish third and fourth.

While it’s not mathematically impossible for that to change, it’s unlikely the Swans or Falcons will be making a finals appearance.

With some teams looking to next year and others to the holy grail, Pilbara Newschatted to each of the teams’ coaches about their 2019 season so far.

Wickham Wolves

The Wolves have had a stellar season and look set to finish top of the ladder for a second consecutive year.

Coach Glen Higgins said their first goal was to get over the Kats in the first final. “Kats are one of the best sides in the comp, we’re probably joint favourites and it’ll be a matter of who turns up on the day and executes their game plan best,” he said.

Higgins said leading in to finals, he was making sure everyone was fit and ready to go.

“We’ve had a lot of younger guys stand up and I’ll be playing my best side no matter what,” he said.

The reserves are second but could be bumped to third if they lose to Rovers on the weekend.

“They’ve struggled a bit the last month or so but they’ll get a few players back soon and hopefully return to winning form,” Higgins said.

Karratha Kats' Corey Byrne is tackled by a Wolves player.
Camera IconKarratha Kats' Corey Byrne is tackled by a Wolves player. Credit: Shannon Beattie

Karratha Kats

The reigning premiers have had another strong season and are sitting second on the ladder, a spot which they cannot lose.

Coach John Wellington said it was looking to be a great finals series. “We’re really finding some good momentum but the Wolves are a great team and I’m not ruling Dampier or the Rovers out if they can get their best sides on the field,” he said.

Looking to the next few games, Wellington said the team is focused on getting their forwards firing.

The reserves have had an equally strong year and will likely finish the season top of the table.

“If everyone is available in the reserves on grand final day, they’ll be very hard to beat,” Wellington said.

Karratha Kats' Frazer Palmer scoops the ball on the run.
Camera IconKarratha Kats' Frazer Palmer scoops the ball on the run. Credit: Shannon Beattie

Port Hedland Rovers

The Rovers have had a remarkable change in fortune this season going from last at the end of 2018 to sitting third and securing a place in the finals.

Melville said the turnaround in form came from focusing on building a foundation and culture as a club.

“The main thing we have been working on is enjoyment and people wanting to be around the place and each other, that’s the key ingredient,” he said

“There’s a real want to improve by the core group and when you get the commitment and leadership you can build the foundations to get better.”

Rovers’ success has also occurred in the reserves with the team currently placed third and looking ominous.

“Our reserves are locked into finals as well so it’s a semi-successful season, it’s better than where we were last year and we’re looking forward to getting in there and winning a few as well.”

Tyson Picket starred for the Rovers kicking 16 goals.
Camera IconTyson Picket starred for the Rovers kicking 16 goals. Credit: Alexander Scott

Dampier Sharks

The Sharks are fourth and while they could still be kicked out of finals, it is unlikely given they’re two games ahead.

Coach Steven Dodd said they would be getting their core player group back. “My main focus is making sure I have players available, because with that we have the ability to match it with the top teams,” he said.

Dodd said if they wanted to be a finals team and compete with the likes of Wickham and the Kats, they would need to be strong and consistent.

“Our No.1 focus in finals will be hard contested football and forward pressure, so we can kick a score and win some games.”

The reserves side is one game out of the top four and are still a chance to play finals if a few things go their way.

Shark's Lewis Upton dodges a couple of Kats players.
Camera IconShark's Lewis Upton dodges a couple of Kats players. Credit: Shannon Beattie

South Hedland Swans

The Swans have had a disappointing season winning just three of their 13 games this year and currently sit fifth on the ladder.

Coach Clint Ernst said the club was disappointed with where they were sitting on the ladder but were using the opportunity to give younger players experience.

“In our last game against Rovers we had 10 blokes who were under 20 years of age, we’re playing a lot of younger players and giving them the opportunity,” he said

Ernst said reserves side are currently fourth on the ladder and would have quite a few players who would qualify for the finals.

Rowan Lawson kicks out of defence for the South Hedland Swans league team, against Port Hedland Rovers.
Camera IconRowan Lawson kicks out of defence for the South Hedland Swans league team, against Port Hedland Rovers. Credit: North West Telegraph

Karratha Falcons

The Falcons are bottom of the table but the ladder doesn’t really reflect their season with the team losing many games by just a goal or two.

Coach Cameron Ling said the close games really hurt them.

“We came within 13-points of Wickham, we lost to Port Hedland by a kick after the siren and our last game we went down to the Kats by only a few points,” Ling said.

“In saying that, the players we have fought to the end and I’m really proud of them.”

Ling is now looking to 2020 and said the team would to recruit some height for the next season.

The Falcons reserves are also sitting last but only one game out of the top four.

Falcons Jaiden Tester takes a mark.
Camera IconFalcons Jaiden Tester takes a mark. Credit: Pictures: Alicia Perera and Shannon Beattie, Alicia Perera

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