Veteran Shark circles Swan
Veteran Shark circles Swan

Likely State teammates Steven Dodd and Ryan Davis will go head-to-head at Steel Blue Oval today as East Fremantle try to get their season back on track by upsetting Swan Districts.

Dodd, the Sharks veteran, thrives on challenges against the WAFL's best forwards and has been set to shut down the rangy Davis, whose superb form since midway through last season has been critical in the rise of the black and whites.

Davis has had 20 kicks in a match just three times in his 100-game career, but two of them have come in the past month as he has developed into Swans' most important conduit into attack.

And fellow WA candidates Tom Howlett and Tony Notte, the versatile Swans big man, are also likely to clash as East Fremantle's stingy defence attempts to negate the home team's vibrant attack.

The performances of Dodd and Howlett, who could line up in the key defensive positions when WA take on the NEAFL side in Sydney this month, will be vital for East Fremantle, who have won just three matches this season.

Another loss would see East Fremantle entrenched in a group of four teams jostling for fourth place.

The poise and versatility of Dodd and Howlett are primary reasons the Sharks have the second-best defence in the league behind miserly West Perth.

State candidates Andrew Stephen and Brock O'Brien, and impressive amateurs recruit Sam Read strengthen a division that gives up just 77 points a game - two fewer than the Falcons - while opposition teams manage just 47 inside 50s a game.

But Swans have the second-best attack behind top team Subiaco and average 98 points a game and score goals from 29 per cent of their forward 50 entries.

The Sharks have tried to bolster their attacking options by calling up Mark McGough for his first match of the season after recovering from a pre-season wrist reconstruction, while Brandon Ellis will make his league debut after five goals in each of the past three reserves matches.

Former East Fremantle premiership coach Ken Judge has put the acid on Sharks forward Ryan Lester-Smith to lift after a dismal start to the season.

The 21-year-old has kicked seven goals from six games this year after his 43-goal haul last season put him on Fremantle's radar.

It took until time-on in the third term for him to have his first kick in the loss to East Perth last Saturday.

"He has to work harder," Judge said during ABC TV's coverage of the match.

"If you are not getting the ball you have to work harder, not work less and look for easy options."

The West Australian

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