Sharks ready for Freo derby opener
East Fremantle vice-captain Matthew Jupp believes his side is ready to break their nine-game losing streak against cross town rivals South Fremantle in round one, after the WAFL confirmed an earlier start date of July 18th on Monday.
The two Port clubs will meet at Fremantle Oval as part of the opening round, the Bulldogs having held a recent stranglehold on the oldest rivalry in Western Australian football, winning every derby since round 19, 2016 with an average winning margin of 73 points.
Speaking just hours before official confirmation of the fixtures, Jupp welcomed a Derby to open the shortened season.
“Couldn’t think of anything better than starting with a derby,” Jupp said on Sports Drive on Monday.
“South Fremantle have had the wood over us for a fair amount of time now, and I’m just desperate to get a win against them.
“As desperate as we are to play, it would make it even better if we can play against the old arch enemy and hopefully get a win in round one.”
The 26 year old is recovering well from toe surgery in March that was set to sideline him for the first half of the season, but in a quirk of fate is now likely to not miss a game because of the enforced COVID-19 break.
Jupp said his body had responded well in the return to contact training.
“It’s been so good getting back out there and running and being able to compete with my teammates,” he said.
“Breaking my foot and having a couple of rounds of surgery I was off the track for a fair period of time. It’s still about getting used to the load that is required at WAFL level, I didn’t do a lot of running for six months.
“There’s still some associated pain that comes with having a couple of operations on your foot, but all things are tracking well and it looks like I’ll be ready to go round one which is so exciting for me.
“After having a couple of major operations and a major injury and not actually missing a game, I’m really lucky to be able to train and play.”
Jupp said he and his team would be ready to go come July 18.
“We’ll be roaring to go. I reckon you will get that answer from every single player in the competition. We are so keen to play footy it’s not funny.”
The 115-game Sharks stalwart was keen for at least one scratch match before the real football began.
“I reckon you need a practice match or two just to blow out the cobwebs,” Jupp said.
“I’m a big fan of one or two scratch matches, as many as you can fit in I guess without compromising the season. Even if it means only a couple of intraclub games. You just need to have some form of a hit out where you can tackle a body and go at a competition level.
“One or two practice matches will dramatically increase the quality of round one when crowds are likely to come and watch.”
East Fremantle was one of the first clubs to return to training when restrictions were first eased in May, and Jupp said the club was doing all it could to keep players from burnout before the season began.
“Guys did a full pre-season and then on the verge of the season we get told we aren’t playing and there’s a period of isolation. Now we are back and essentially doing another mini pre-season. There is that risk of burnout,” he said.
“So, we just need to take it with each individual case. If guys are getting a little burnt out, then they are probably due a rest. There’s nothing wrong with giving guys a week off if they need it. At the end of the day you need to be just as mentally healthy as you do physically healthy.
“It certainly is a risk, but as a football club we are aware of it and are managing at best we can.”
The WAFL season start date will coincide with phase five of the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, which will see all restrictions lifted in the state.
IMAGE: Les Everett- Australian Rules Football website.