WAFL Week 2 Finals preview: Lions and Bulldogs face off for grand final spot

SUBIACO Lions and South Fremantle Bulldogs will face off for a spot in the 2021 West Australian Football League (WAFL) Grand Final when they lock horns in the semi-final on the weekend. Just four teams remain in the race for the title, with the loser of the major semi-final to look horns with the winner of the minor semi-final next week. In that semi, Claremont hosts West Perth, with no turning back for the loser, which is going to be the case for both those sides from now on, after the Falcons knocked off Swan Districts last week, and Claremont fell to South Fremantle.

SUBIACO vs. SOUTH FREMANTLE
Saturday, September 18 @ 2:40pm
Leederville Oval

A grand final spot is on the line in a battle between the top two teams on the 2021 WAFL ladder. Subiaco finished the year with 14 wins and four losses, one more victory than South Fremantle (13-5). The pair have had two clashes this year with the results mixed, as South Fremantle toppled Subiaco by 18 points at home earlier in the year, before the Lions showed no mercy in a statement win in Round 16, knocking off the Bulldogs by 44 points at this venue. In that game, a six goals to one second half was the difference, as the Lions had 100 more disposals and 17 more inside 50s to really control play in their forward half.

Leigh Kitchen (33 disposals, five marks, seven tackles, 11 inside 50s and a goal) and Gregory Clark (32 disposals, four marks, five tackles) had the ball on a string for the Lions, as Harrison Marsh (28 disposals, six marks, four tackles, eight inside 50s and one goal) was also lively. Dominant goalkicker Ben Sokol slotted 2.3 from 17 touches and eight marks, with Michael Braut (three goals) and Nicholas Martin (two) the other multiple goalscorers. South Fremantle had a second half to forget, though the likes of Hayden Schloithe (29 disposals, four tackles and four inside 50s), Chad Pearson (25 disposals, five marks) and Tom Blechynden (23 disposals, five inside 50s) were consistent, and Blake Schlensog pulled down 12 marks – almost 20 per cent of his team’s total marks – to go with 18 disposals and a goal.

Subiaco will be well rested for the clash after a week off, with their last game coming on September 4, when they were pushed all the way by Peel Thunder, before getting up by four points. Since losing to West Perth by a goal back in round 20, South Fremantle have strung together three consecutive wins – including last week’s final – whilst Subiaco’s last loss was a shock 44-point defeat against a hungry East Fremantle outfit.

With Matt Parker back in the side for the Bulldogs after being on Richmond’s list throughout the second half of the WAFL season, the Bulldogs are better placed than in their last clash. They have also recalled a number of players for an extended bench, though the midfield battle will be key, with the likes of Schloithe, Nic Suban and Jake Florenca up against Marsh, Clark and Kitchen. It will also be a great opportunity once against for AFL Draft hopeful Jesse Motlop who dons the red and white for South Fremantle as they try and upset the minor premiers in the Bulldogs’ bid to go back-to-back.

CLAREMONT vs. WEST PERTH
Sunday, September 19 @ 2:10pm
Revo Fitness Stadium

There is no turning back for either Claremont or West Perth in their do-or-die semi-final. The Falcons booked their spot in the spot in the semi-finals with a four-point nail-biting win over Swan Districts last week. Trailing at every break, the Falcons kicked five goals to four in a high-scoring last term to win 14.6 (90) to 13.8 (86). Keegan Knott (four goals) and Tyler Keitel (three) were the key goalkickers, as Aaron Black (29 disposals), Trent Manzone (26) and Blake Wilhelm (26) continued their great form.

Claremont will be licking their wounds after coming so close to toppling the Bulldogs, going down by a single point in the qualifying final. The Tigers led by four goals at half-time, but a seven goals to three second half saw the Tigers run over the top of them and win by a heartbreaking one point. Jye Bolton continued his remarkable season with another 30 touches, as Jared Hardisty (26 and 16 tackles) and Bailey Rogers (18 disposals, six marks and two goals) were also impressive.

These sides have also split the results from their two clashes, with Claremont hopeful of repeating their Round 5 shellacking of the Falcons, running away 52-point winners at home. West Perth got the better of the Tigers at their home ground in Round 12 however, getting over the line by 14 points in a much closer affair at Provident Financial Oval. That day the Falcons had a plus-35 in disposals and eight more inside 50s (47-39) but were well beaten in the hitouts (43-21).

Oliver Eastland is coming off a 44-hitout game last week and had 39 against the Falcons, as well as 22 disposals, four marks, three tackles and two inside 50s to be a monster at the stoppages. Rogers (17 disposals, five marks, six inside 50s and three goals) hit the scoreboard that day, with Alexander Manuel (two goals) also kicking multiple majors. Teenager Jacob Van Rooyen had six touches and four marks in the game, with Bolton (29 disposals, four marks and six inside 50s), Ben Edwards (25 disposal, three marks, six tackles and four inside 50s) and Hardisty (25 disposals, four tackles and three inside 50s) the other prominent Tigers ball-winners. Black was best on ground in the Falcons’ win amassing 34 disposals, nine marks, 12 tackles and six inside 50s, with Zac Guadagnin (27 disposals, nine marks) and Shane Nelson (25 disposals, three marks, three tackles and six inside 50s) also busy. Keitel slotted three goals from 12 touches and five marks, while Rudy Riddoch had 12 disposals, four marks and two goals.

Given how close Claremont came to South Fremantle last week, and the fact they are at home and how they performed against West Perth in their last outing at Revo Fitness Stadium, they have to be favourites. West Perth IS always a chance, and were able to win in a tight one last week, and their Round 12 victory over the Tigers will provide them with confidence to do the job again here.

Picture credit: WAFL

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