Sharks at forefront for Black Swans
East Fremantle defender Andrew Stephen is expected to be among several Sharks in WA’s back line. Picture: Lincoln Baker/WA News

The important role East Fremantle's back line has played for the club in 2014 is set to be reflected in the WA team to do battle with a NEAFL representative side in Sydney tomorrow.

Up to half of the Black Swans defensive set-up will be Sharks, with Steven Dodd, Tom Howlett and Andrew Stephen included in the 23-man travelling party.

Dodd is expected to start at centre half-back after a series of strong performances in that role, most recently a shut-down effort against likely State teammate and Perth captain Paul Bevan at Lathlain Park last Saturday.

Stephen and Howlett also played soundly in that game, improving their chances of lining up for the Black Swans against the combined side from NSW, ACT, Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Dodd and Stephen are experienced State performers. Former Fremantle squad member Dodd was included in WA sides of 2004, 2012 and 2013 while Stephen has played for the Black Swans for the past two years.

Howlett too has experience on the national stage, the 25-year-old having notched three Foxtel Cup games last year.

Stephen said the Sharks' back six had worked well in 2014, including the club's four losses.

"We have been lucky enough to be picked in the State squad based on our form," Stephen said. "We haven't been winning (some) games but I think our structure in the back line has been very good still.

"The ball has been coming down there a fair bit and I think we have been working well as a team, so we have given ourselves every chance to be selected."

Stephen, who notched his 100th league game last weekend, said last year's drought-snapping win in Northam, where they beat Victoria for the first time since 1991, was sensational.

"We came from 35 points down to win. It was just a great opportunity and learning experience to be involved with the best players in the WAFL," he said.

Stephen said playing for the Black Swans had been a personal breakthrough after missing out on junior representative sides.

"State team, it's just the pinnacle and it was a real honour to put that Black Swans jumper on," he said.

Former WAFL players Ryan Brabazon (Claremont) and Jacob Derickx (East Perth) were named in the 26-man NEAFL squad.


WAFL: Steven Dodd, Andrew Stephen, Tom Howlett, Jamie McNamara (East Fremantle); Jay van Berlo, Jordan Jones, Chris Keunen, Kody Manning, Shane Nelson, Laine Rasmussen, Nicholas Rodda (West Perth); Ryan Cook, Ashton Hams, Ben Saunders, Haiden Schloithe (South Fremantle); Tallan Ames, Blaine Boekhorst, Ryan Davis, Tony Notte (Swan Districts); Luke Blackwell (Claremont); Brendan Lee (captain); Paul Bevan (Perth); George Hampson (Subiaco).

NEAFL: Ryan Brabazon, Will Sierakowski, Tim Barton, Matt O'Dwyer, Jacob Derickx (Sydney University); Mitch Pettit, Jed Turner, Matt Payne, Eddie Sansbury, Gavin Grose (Aspley); Todd Grayson, Luke Shreeve, Kal Geary, Jason Burge, Josh Baxter, Wade Mills (Southport); Cleve Hughes, Darren Pfeiffer (Redland); Chris Dunne, Cameron Ilett, Ben Rioli (NT Thunder); Sean Ellis, Aaron Vandenberg (Ainslie); Michael Riseley, Trent Stubbs (Hills Eagles); Kade Klemke (Queanbeyan).

The West Australian

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