WAFL Grand Final Preview: League powerhouses set for decider
THE Western Australian Football League (WAFL) will hold its three grand finals this weekend, with the best sides of the seniors, reserves and colts leagues set to lock horns on Saturday afternoon at Optus Stadium. Fresh off hosting the AFL grand final last weekend, the stadium will host all three games in a ‘WA Festival of Footy’. With an engrossing rivalry set to resume in the seniors, Western Australian football fans will be treated to an enthralling day of football action.
Subiaco Lions vs. South Fremantle Bulldogs
The two best teams of the last five years are set to write another chapter in their thrilling series of clashes over the recent season, as the ladder-leading Subiaco will host South Fremantle in the 2021 decider. The two sides have dominated recent years and between them, are responsible for the last three premierships. Since 2016, the two sides have finished in the top two positions every year, and have been the benchmark for this entire period. Their clashes have delivered some thrilling finishes in the past, and this weekend’s big dance is expected to be no different.
Their most recent clash came in the second week of this year’s finals series, where Subiaco were able to emerge victorious, defeating the Bulldogs by 22 points at Leederville Oval. The Lions booted five goals in the first term to the Bulldogs’ one, giving them a lead they were able to defend for the remainder of the game. The final three quarters of that contest were extremely close, which shows either of these sides can win on any given day. The Lions were led in the midfield by star on-baller Gregory Clark, who had 25 disposals and a whopping 13 tackles, so expect the Bulldogs to play close attention to him this time around. Clark is influential for his side on a weekly occasion, so if he can get off the loose again, he will be one of the favourites to take home the Simpson Medal for best on ground in the grand final.
The Bulldogs will be looking to the experience of AFL gun Matthew Parker, who has returned to his side following a stint with the Richmond Tigers, who have granted him permission to compete in the remainder of the season. Parker was impressive the last time these sides met, recording 25 disposals and laying 10 tackles. He has the ability to tear a game open and he will be looking to do just that on Saturday.
Subiaco have proven themselves as the side of 2021, but anything can happen in finals, especially the decider. Following a convincing win over Claremont last weekend, the Bulldogs will be looking to get off to the fast start that served them so well in the preliminary finals. With so much history between these two sides, this should be a cracking contest regardless of the result.
Perth Demons vs. Subiaco Lions
Perth was able to advance straight through to the 2021 reserves grand final in impressive fashion, but they may face their biggest challenge on Saturday as they take on a Subiaco side full of confidence.
The Lions burst their way into the deciding match with a stirring preliminary finals win, in which they turned a 14-point deficit into a famous victory for their club. This momentum should carry into this week for a side full of belief, but will fatigue get the better of them or will they push through the final hurdle to claim the ultimate prize?
Perth’s journey to the big dance was full of tense contests, but the Demons were able to utilise the experience of their veterans to push through and book a grand final spot with a week up their sleeve. They would have been keeping a close eye on last week’s contest, and with much more rest than their upcoming opponents, will be fresh heading into this week’s outing. With former skipper Corey Yeo leading the way in the middle, they will look to get out to an early lead on the Lions to wear them down.
Claremont Tigers vs. Swan Districts
A heated rivalry is set to resume with the Tigers and the Swans scheduled to face off in the Colts grand final on Saturday afternoon. The two sides faced off in consecutive grand final matches in 2014 and 2015, as the two best sides of this period. The result ended in a draw, with each side claiming one premiership from the two battles, with a third on the line on Saturday.
The Swans were far and away the strongest team of the 2021 season, winning 15 of the 16 games to enter the finals series as clear competition favourites. Things were running smoothly until they were upset by the very side they face this Saturday, with Claremont claiming a stunning 41-point upset to advance straight through to the grand final. The Swans will be out for revenge in this contest as they try to claim their first premiership since 2014, where they prevailed by 18 points.
Claremont have been a dominant colts side for a number of years, with their most recent flag only coming in 2019. They will have memories of last year’s grand final loss against Subiaco, so there will be a revenge element for the Tigers too. Expect them to look for the target of Jacob van Rooyen, who booted four goals in the semi-final win over the Swans.
Photo: WAFL website