Sandover medallist Andrew Krakouer will today make his senior return to the competition that resurrected his football career.
The 31-year-old will play his first game of WAFL league footy since the extraordinary best-afield performance in the 2010 grand final that helped win the flag for Swan Districts and catapulted him back into the AFL system.
Krakouer will line up for West Perth as the WAFL premiers host winless South Fremantle at Arena Joondalup.
A guaranteed place in the line-up was earned on the back of a starring role for the Falcons reserves last Saturday.
The former Collingwood and Richmond forward had 26 disposals playing predominantly as a midfielder and topped off his contribution with seven tackles, five inside-50s and a goal.
West Perth coach Bill Monaghan said Krakouer has been completing four mornings in the gym most weeks on top of the club’s three weekly training sessions to fast-track his fitness.
“He’s at a stage where he’s fit enough to play league footy,” Monaghan said.
“Is he super fit? No. Will we have to monitor his minutes? Yes.
“We just think his quality coming on and off the bench will provide a spark and obviously all things going well will cause some headaches for the opposition teams.
“We think there’s going to be sides that will probably pay a fair amount of respect to Andrew on his past performances … he hasn’t lost any of his ability and we’re hoping that it will ease the load a bit on a couple of our younger players.”
Club officials had at one point written off seeing Krakouer’s league debut.
The star signed with the Falcons in December, but two months later appeared set to walk out on the playing deal to pursue a mining job in the Pilbara.
However, efforts to secure alternative employment in Perth for Krakouer paid off, with the Easter Saturday debut just reward for the club’s persistence.
Falcons president Brett Raponi described Krakouer’s return as a “real shot in the arm” for the WAFL.
Krakouer told The West Australian last month that he believed he had not burnt bridges at Swan Districts despite choosing not to return to his old WAFL club after being de-listed by Collingwood at the end of last season.
Swans threw the 137-game AFL player a lifeline in late 2009 after he had been released from prison.
Krakouer repaid them with one of the best seasons from an individual in recent WAFL history, saving the best for last with 40 disposals and four goals in the 2010 grand final win.
“They gave me a great opportunity and I feel forever indebted to them,” he said. “It was a really tough decision, but looking back at it now I think I made the right decision to join West Perth.”
West Perth have meanwhile ruled Matt Guadagnin out for at least another week with hamstring tightness.