Preview | 2021 WAFL Preliminary Final – Bulldogs look to keep flag defence alive
WITH a League grand final berth on the line, the Western Australia Football League (WAFL) contest this weekend shapes up as one of the games of the year. The South Fremantle Bulldogs will be taking on the Claremont Tigers for a spot in next weekend’s decider against Subiaco. The script simply couldn’t have been written any better than this. The top three teams remain in finals, and with very little separating these teams in the home-and-away season, this match could go either way.
There has been quite the rivalry building between these two clubs after a number of postseason battles in recent years. The teams faced off in last year’s grand final, where the Bulldogs claimed the victory by just three points. This came only two weeks after Claremont had beaten them in the semi-finals. With their history extending into this season, this looks set for a thrilling finish.
The two sides finished with identical records at the end of the season with 13 wins and five losses, only to be separated by percentage with South Fremantle claiming second place. Adding to the excitement of this game, the two teams faced off in the first week of the finals in an absolute thriller. South Fremantle claimed a one-point win, which would have given Claremont players and fans memories of last year’s grand final heartbreak.
One of the big stories heading into this game is the return of Bulldog Matthew Parker, who has spent much of the season in Victoria. Parker was taken by the Richmond Tigers in the AFL mid-season draft, where he competed in six games at that level. The Tigers have essentially loaned Parker back to South Fremantle to compete in the remaining finals games, and he should add another dimension to the Bulldogs’ game. Parker can play forward and rotate through the midfield with some speed and his hard tackling.
Claremont had to produce something special in its semi-final win against West Perth, relying on a 51-point turnaround in the second half. The Tigers will be looking to improve their start in this final, and if they can continue the momentum of last week’s second half, they will take some beating.
Look for Claremont’s Jye Bolton to stamp his authority on this contest. There was no player more influential than Bolton in their semi-final, and he will be eager to drive his side into a second consecutive grand final berth.
Given the history between these two sides, there is naturally some buzz heading into this weekend (which could also be affected by the other game in Perth this weekend). With the season on the line and a rivalry going strong, this preliminary final should prove essential viewing for football fans around the country on Sunday afternoon.
Image Credit: South Fremantle Football Club via Facebook