WESTERN Australia and Victoria have finalised preparations for tomorrow's State game at Medibank Stadium and both sides are expecting a tremendous showing from the stars of the WAFL and VFL, and former and future AFL players.
John Dimmer's WAFL side currently has 25 players still a chance to play with the final 23 to be picked in the morning, but 13 of those 25 have played AFL football with several of the group hoping to impress anyone scouting the game, but also to get a rare win for WA over Victoria.
Victoria has just six players with previous AFL experience in its squad, but has plenty of experience, talent and versatility in its mix and will be led by an incredibly well-credentialed coaching staff.
Picture: WAFL vice captain Jason Salecic, WAFL coach John Dimmer, VFL coach Gerard Fitzgerald and VFL captain Brett Johnson with Town of Vincent Mayor Nick Catania during an official welcome and media conference at the Town of Vincent.
WAFL v VFL, 12.10pm, Medibank Stadium, Leederville
WA is coming off wins over Queensland and South Australia since the 119-point loss in Melbourne to Victoria in 2007, but only Chad Jones, Josh Roberts, Jason Salecic and Michael Warren remain from that side.
Dimmer has made sure that reputation counted for nothing in picking this year's team, that all 25 are in terrific form and he's happy with how the group has come together.
"We do have some who were playing a few years ago when they were beaten by 119 points so that will spur them on, but a lot of players have been turned over. The good thing about the team is that they are in peak form in the WAFL," Dimmer said.
"They had to be playing well and reputations didn’t count too much, but fortunately we've been able to get a blend of experience with guys like Luke Webster (pictured), Toby McGrath and then we've got younger blokes like (Aaron) Sweet. We've got a good balance."
Rain is forecast for the game which could lessen WA's advantage of playing on the large expanses of Medibank Stadium and bring Victoria's big bodies to the fore, but Dimmer is confident his WA side can handle whatever the conditions are.
"It's quite amazing that it looks like we are going to get quite a bit of rain. The last time we did was that massive hail stone storm that came through Perth, and we haven’t had any since so we haven’t trained or played in it," he said.
"I always believe that if you have skilful players they will perform whether it's raining, snowing, hailing or 35 degrees. You may vary the side a little bit and that could mean the difference between an extra small or staying with the side we looked at on Thursday night."
Gerard Fitzgerald (pictured with VFL captain Brett Johnson) takes back the reins for Victoria after also taking the Big V to wins over South Australia (2002) and WA (2004 at the same Leederville ground), and the fourth longest serving VFL coach also has Peter German, Gary Ayres and Col Kinnear as part of his staff.
Ayres starred in five premierships with Hawthorn and coached both Geelong and Adelaide, including taking the Cats to the 1995 grand final, while Kinnear has coached the Sydney Swans.
They decided they needed a group of players that fitted into certain criteria coming to WA and that saw Nick Sautner (who kicked nine goals against WA in 2007) and experienced pair Shane Moloney and Jason Cloke not picked.
"We've just had three really strong criteria. That's to be fit, in form and desperately keen to play. Nick just hasn’t been able to get a go at it this year. He has had a wonderful career and has represented the state very well when he's played, but hasn’t had the number of games that we would want therefore doesn’t have the form," Fitzgerald said.
"He (Cloke) probably was unlucky to miss out, but we've had quite a strong discipline to a structure that we wanted to bring across. We've looked at the forward-line, the midfield and the back-line and what particular players we wanted in each area.
"We think we've picked the players who are playing well enough in those particular areas, but there's always someone who people will think should be in the side and that's just footy. We think those that have come across deserve their spot."
Winning away State matches is never easy and Fitzgerald knows the Victorians have their work cut out, but he's just proud to see State football alive and strong.
"History tells us the travelling team in interstate campaigns is always at a disadvantage so there's some things that we've worked on with our group. It's a magnificent ground, it's a credit to the city of Perth. It's a lovely stadium and is in better nick than when we were here last time," he said.
"It is an honour for my blokes to come across and represent their state, as it would be for all of the West Australian people. Of course there will be rivalry and everyone will want to win, but the key thing is that both states still have State football and it's an opportunity for both groups to represent at the highest level. It's a wonderful occasion."
WA vice-captain Jason Salecic (pictured) is looking forward to taking on Victoria and hopes to play in his first win over the Big V.
"Just playing is a big honour in itself, but to be a leader is much more. It's exciting and it's going to be a good challenge for us coming off good wins the last two years. I played my first game against the Vics and enjoyed it even though we lost so hopefully we can get a win on the weekend," Salecic said.
"It (the big ground) might be a little bit of a factor because we generally play on the big grounds and they play on smaller ones so get used to a different way of playing, but football is football and whoever wants it more will win the footy and the game."
Brett Johnson was drafted out of Swan Districts before playing 38 games with Hawthorn and 32 with Carlton, but now is proud to be captaining Victoria.
"I've been playing in the VFL competition for about 10 years now and I think it's a fantastic competition. I have a lot of respect for the guys I will be playing with and it's a huge honour," Johnson said.
"Home ground advantage is big in these type of games, but we have prepared well, trained well during the week and all the guys are keen to get out there to have a good go at it."