SWFL league coaches predict the season ahead

The SWFL coaches believe it will be a tight season, but reigning premiers Bunbury are the favourites to claim the flag. Photo: Andrew Elstermann.
The SWFL coaches believe it will be a tight season, but reigning premiers Bunbury are the favourites to claim the flag. Photo: Andrew Elstermann.

There’s a handful of teams that have the potential to win the flag, Donnybrook will be playing finals for the first time in 13 years and the South West will end Peel’s run in the Landmark Carnival.

At least, that’s if you believe the coaches.

On the eve of the 2018 SWFL season, we quizzed all ten of the league’s coaches in an anonymous survey to get their thoughts and predictions on how the season will pan out.

See the results of our survey below:

Outside of your club, who has the best chance of winning the flag?

  • Bunbury: 4 votes
  • Collie Eagles: 2 votes
  • Harvey Bulls: 2 votes
  • Augusta-Margaret River: 1 vote

There were no real surprises in the coaches’ picks to win the premiership, with all of last season’s top three ladder-placers getting multiple votes.

Reigning premiers Bunbury were the popular pick with one coach saying ‘they have recruited well despite losing some players’.

Another coach made the prediction that 2018 would be Augusta-Margaret River’s year based on the strength of their colts team over the past few years.

Despite not getting a vote, Donnybrook was cited by several coaches as a chance while, interestingly, last year’s grand finallist Harvey-Brunswick-Leschenault didn’t receive a vote.

One coach also said he couldn’t pick a winner and that he felt there were about seven teams who could consider themselves a genuine chance.

Augusta-Margaret River are the coaches' choice to be the biggest improver this season. Photo: Andrew Elstermann.

Augusta-Margaret River are the coaches' choice to be the biggest improver this season. Photo: Andrew Elstermann.

Which team will be 2018’s surprise packet?

  • Augusta-Margaret River: 4 votes
  • South Bunbury: 2 votes
  • Busselton: 1 vote
  • Carey Park: 1 vote
  • Eaton Boomers: 1 vote
  • Donnybrook: 1 vote

Despite making finals last year, Augusta-Margaret River were the coaches’ favourite to surprise the league this year.

One coach put the Hawks’ rise down to the number of quality locals returning from the WAFL while another mentioned the Hawks ‘always come home strong’.

South Bunbury were also picked by a couple of coaches as a team that could possibly make the rise into the top five this season.

Who will win the Hayward medal?

  • Chris Atthowe (Donnybrook): 2 votes
  • Matt Jukes (Augusta-Margaret River): 2 votes
  • Aaron Elari (Collie Eagles): 2 votes
  • Mark Longbottom (Bunbury): 1 vote
  • Jesse Gribble (Bunbury): 1 vote
  • Mitch Andrews (Harvey-Brunswick-Leschenault): 1 vote
  • Jackson Arbon (Busselton): 1 vote

With reigning Hayward medallist Travis Cleggett moving from Collie to Subiaco in the WAFL over the offseason, we’re certain to see a new winner this year, but the coaches were divided on who that would be.

Chris Atthowe was a popular pick, with one coach expecting he’d thrive in his new environment after swapping Eaton for Donnybrook along with former Hayward medal winner Jace Cormack.

New recruits were also popular choices with ex-Swan Districts forward Matt Jukes receiving a couple of votes, while Collie recruit Aaron Elari also claimed two votes but was also the second choice of several other coaches.

Collie's Joel Houghton won the league goal kicking last season and he's the coaches pick to do it again. Photo: Thomas Munday.

Collie's Joel Houghton won the league goal kicking last season and he's the coaches pick to do it again. Photo: Thomas Munday.

Who will lead the league’s goal kicking?

  • Joel Houghton (Collie Eagles): 4 votes
  • Jack Hick (Augusta-Margaret River): 1 vote
  • Aiden Fraser (Busselton): 1 vote
  • Leigh Kohlmann (South Bunbury): 1 vote
  • Brett Peake (Bunbury): 1 vote
  • Matt Jukes (Augusta-Margaret River): 1 vote

Collie’s Joel Houghton is the favourite to go back-to-back in the goal kicking according to the coaches.

Most said it was hard to pick a definite front-runner, but Houghton’s proven goal-kicking ability will give him a chance.

Augusta-Margaret River’s WAFL recruits Jack Hick and Matt Jukes also received votes. 

One coach declined to nominate a winner, saying he wasn’t sure what key forwards other teams had recruited.

Will Donnybrook break their finals drought this season?

  • Yes: 9 votes
  • No: 1 vote

Donnybrook haven’t played finals footy since 2005, but the vast majority of coaches believe the league’s longest drought will come to an end this year.

One coach cited the club’s recruiting of stars from within the league as the main reason, while another pointed to the fact the Dons only missed finals by one place last year.

“You’re only as good as your locals and they’ve brought most of their good players in from elsewhere,” the sole nay-sayer said.

Donnybrook haven't played finals football since 2005 and just one coach believes that drought will continue. Photo: Thomas Munday.

Donnybrook haven't played finals football since 2005 and just one coach believes that drought will continue. Photo: Thomas Munday.

Should the preseason carnival return next year?

  • No: 8 votes
  • Yes: 2 votes

The majority of coaches were happy with organising their own preseason scratch matches in place of a structured preseason carnival.

One coach said having to play multiple games in one day was an injury risk, while others said the timing of the competition is problematic.

Another coach said he didn’t think a preseason carnival was profitable for the clubs, who were able this year to host a home game and make some money before the season starts.

Two coaches bucked the trend and said they wanted to see the carnival back, with the hassles of organising and holding practice games one of the key reasons.

Would you prefer to see the grand final played as a day game or a twilight game?

  • Day: 8 votes
  • Twilight: 2 votes

Traditionalism rules among the SWFL’s coaches with the majority saying they would prefer the grand final to be kept as is.

One coach said a day game would ‘have a better atmosphere and be better for families with small children’ while another said the lights at Hands Oval aren’t good enough to play a grand final under.

Playing the grand final on a Saturday instead of the traditional Sunday was raised by one coach as a way to draw a bigger crowd.

Both coaches who voted for a twilight grand final said they felt the league needed to try something new.

The coaches were unanimous in their belief that the SWFL has the quality to defeat the Peel league in the Landmark Carnival.

The coaches were unanimous in their belief that the SWFL has the quality to defeat the Peel league in the Landmark Carnival.

Will 2018 be the SWFL’s year to topple Peel at the Landmark Carnival?

  • Yes: 10 votes

The coaches were unanimous in their assessment that the SWFL has the talent to end Peel’s run for a third straight Landmark Carnival win.

However all of the coaches also agreed that it would depend on whether the players, and in particular the new recruits to the league, fully commit and make themselves available for selection.

“With our best players on the park, I don’t think many other leagues would even come close,” one coach said.