Verrier eyes big second half of season for Bulldogs

Thursday, June 28, 2018 - 12:54 PM by Chris Pike

HE is one of South Fremantle's great weapons with his flexibility and versatility, and Bulldogs hard man Steve Verrier is looking forward to the second half of the WAFL season both personally and for his team.

Verrier has now played 78 matches with South Fremantle, 77 of which have been since returning to the Bulldogs after spending two years at Richmond in the AFL, and remains an important player given his toughness, versatility and ability to virtually play in any position on the field.

He did battle injuries in 2017 limiting him to 14 matches on the back of a standout 2016 season where he played all 23 games, including all three finals culminating in the preliminary final, and finished third in fairest and best voting to Shane Hockey and Marlion Pickett.

The 25-year-old did have a slightly slow start to this season and even found himself playing in the reserves for a week in Round 7 against East Perth. 

But he took that on the chin and dominated with 35 possessions and 10 tackles, and despite also missing the Round 10 loss to Perth, has been back to some impressive form since including 21 disposals and seven marks in the Round 11 win over Peel Thunder prior to last week's bye.

Over the course of his career at South Fremantle, Verrier has proven himself a tremendously versatile player.

While perhaps best suited to playing off half-back where his toughness and ability to win one-on-one contests can shine along with allowing him to be creative setting up play, he's more than capable in other roles. 

Verrier has shown he can do well as an inside midfielder who wins the contested ball and clearances, and can also be damaging in space while he's no stranger to kicking the odd goal and is dangerous when forward.

That makes him quite a valuable asset for the Bulldogs and even though he might prefer playing down back, he understands it might not always be what the team requires of him.

"To be honest I've had a pretty up and down season. I was just struggling to find the footy at the start of the year but I suppose that happens with footy. The main thing is that I've stayed in the team and am just trying to play my role," Verrier told The Kennel on 91.3 SportFM. 

"I would say I'm probably best suited to playing in the back-line. The coaches do want me coming through the midfield eventually, but I've played all my juniors down in the back-line and it's only the couple of years really I've come through the midfield.

"I would say that is where I'm most comfortable as that high half-back but the coaches think I play my best footy in the guts. 

"I just need to build up my engine and start playing more midfield as the year goes on. I do get thrown around a bit wherever Toddy wants me to play on the weekend and depending on how we match up."

Verrier played well personally and so did South Fremantle as a team prior to last week's bye to beat Peel Thunder by 35 points at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.

That steadied the Bulldogs after losing two of their previous three games to Claremont and Perth in between a big WA Day Foundation Derby win over East Fremantle to be solid in second position on the ladder at 7-3.

Verrier was happy with the way the team performed especially after those losses to the Tigers and Demons.

"It was a really good win actually considering our effort last week for Perth. We went in with our game plan and our defensive stuff was a lot better than in that Perth game and everyone was sweet," he said.

"It was fair to say everyone was pretty disappointed with themselves for those Claremont and Perth games. But everyone was pretty happy to respond against Peel and so were the coaches. We stuck it out before heading into the bye."

Most of Verrier's WAFL career has seen him play alongside younger brother Brendan. He had played 68 matches up until the end of 2017 as a hard-running, prolific ball winning wingman but has yet to take the field in 2018 due to concussion-related issues.

Steve isn’t sure on a timeline regarding his return just yet, but is hoping Brendan is over the worst of it.

"He is going good. He doesn’t really want to be on the sidelines, that's for sure, but he has seen a lot of doctors because he's having a tough time with his head. He is doing all he can, though, to try and get back in the team but it's an indefinite thing really," he said.

"It's a real suck and see really to see how it's going to go for the rest of the year and it's just a waiting game really. But he's doing everything he can to be right for now and post-footy.

"At the start of the year he had a good break from the off-season which helped him a lot and as soon as the pre-season finished and the games started heating up, that's when it started going downhill.

"He had recovered well and then it got triggered, and he just hasn’t been the same since. He was real close to returning not so long ago and one night in the movies it all flicked back and he got the symptoms again. 

"He had to reset and figure out what to do and the doctors have come up with a plan for him now which he's halfway through. We'll wait and see what happens from now on."

As for South Fremantle's season so far, Verrier still feels the Bulldogs have plenty improvement to make but to be in second position and having won seven of 10 matches while feeling that way is undoubtedly a positive.

"It is a positive that we're second on the ladder but we feel like we have a lot to improve on for the second half of the year," Verrier said.

"There were a couple of games we really didn’t fire a shot in and only lost by a goal in each of them. We have a lot to improve on and there are positive signs that we are sitting second and we're in good shape now to try and finish off the second half of the season strongly."