EAST Fremantle booked its preliminary final ticket with a hard fought 17-point win over East Perth on Saturday, sending the Royals packing in straight sets. Neither side was able to truly capitalise on their periods of dominance, with poor kicking and conversion making for a real slog throughout large parts of the game. After taking 24 minutes to scrounge a major in term one, the Royals snared another within the first minute of term two, but the Sharks managed to lurk rather closely.
The game opened up a touch after half time as East Fremantle worked hard to hit the front, but East Perth conjured consecutive majors to ensure that lead was short-lived. The turning tide eventually saw East Perth give way in the final quarter, as the Sharks kicked four unanswered goals to build an unassailable advantage when it mattered most.
We highlight a few of the top performers from either side in our Scouting Notes with a particular focus on state representatives, before taking a look around the grounds and up the grades.
East Perth 5.6 (36) def. by East Fremantle 7.11 (53)
#4 Ethan Regan
After an early foray into midfield last time out, Regan was stationed back out in his usual forward post and got busy for the Royals. He notched the first two scores of the day, albeit minors, from consecutive set shots to prove he came to play. His size and athleticism give him great range inside 50, and that showed in his defensive efforts with tackling pressure and a couple of handy smothers which lead to scoring opportunities. Having initially looked lively closer to goal, Regan began to link up the ground as the game wore on and finished with four marks among his 11 disposals.
#7 Jye Amiss
Kept goalless for consecutive weeks after a remarkable stretch of form, Amiss can now look forward to another state game to cap off his season. With the kicking skills of either side not particularly great, Amiss had to make his limited opportunities count. As he has done recently, he led further afield searching for the ball and presented nicely on a few occasions. He was given little room to move, but got separation on a short lead inside 50 in term three and registered a behind from the resultant shot. Not his best day, but Amiss has produced a massive season.
#11 James Tunstill
With midfield bull Kade Dittmar a late out, Tunstill was a constant in the engine room for East Perth and ended arguably as his side’s best player. While hit-and-miss on a few kicks, when Tunstill got his delivery right he looked superb. He hit several spearing passes going forward on the move, with that kind of delivery rare among his peers on the day. Tunstill was also able to find the ball at stoppages, but drove well on the outside around the ground to finish with 23 disposals. He could have had a goal in term two after a strong two-grab mark, but ran around and missed the snap.
#26 Kaden Harbour
Harbour was another player who stepped up in the absence of Kade Dittmar, offering a similar level of intent and physicality around the ball. The usual forward worked hard further afield to provide presence and pressure around the ball, before backing his pace and skill to break forward. A couple of his penetrating kicks inside 50 were outstanding, finding teammates over the back and resulting in shots on goal. He also looked to side-step or break tackles to create more chances, and ended up with a goal of his own in term four. He loved the set shot, showing as much with a big celebration.
#34 Jedd Busslinger
It’s unbelievable how composed Busslinger is at times, especially considering he is a bottom-ager. The state Under 17 representative was solid across East Perth’s backline, chiming in with spoils on aerial balls and mopping up at ground level with aplomb. He was forced to make quick decisions on the ball but hit the right option more often than not, kicking the ball well for a player of his 195cm stature. Even when he made a rare skill error in the second quarter, he intercepted the resultant free kick.
#4 Jed Hagan
With a wealth of WAFL Colts experience under his belt now, Hagan continues to prove he is well and truly up to the level. In his usual defensive role, the bottom-ager got his clean kicking game going and made some good decisions under heavy pressure. A solid body despite his shorter stature, Hagan also did well to win ground balls against his direct opponent and was composed in the heat of battle. His effort and skill boded well for a late midfield stint too, which may be a sign of things to come next year.
#5 Corey Warner
A player with senior experience, Warner put his stamp on this game when it mattered. It was no surprise that as the contest seemed to open up, Warner was the one doing so with his driving runs and penetrative kicking. While some of his disposal on that trusty left side could have been sharper at times, Warner got his side on the front foot and looked dangerous when released on the outside via hand. He made some great reads to rove the ball at speed and could have had an even bigger game if not for a couple of misses on goal.
#6 Josh Browne
Browne simply knows how to find plenty of the ball and did so once again in this outing. He finished with a game-high 30 disposals, racking up the ball in different areas of the ground and dropping back to help move it forward. A pure accumulator, Browne sometimes dumped the ball out under pressure having been caught with it on other occasions, but that did not prevent him from finding more of it. He did manage a clean centre clearance break in term four, which ended up being an important goal assist.
#7 Judd McVee
Along with Hagan, McVee was an important rebounding force across half-back with his positional nous and smooth kicking technique. He chimed in with a couple of handy spoils in the back half to add to his attacking play, while also coming off the line hard to impact at centre bounces. His kick-first approach got East Fremantle out of some tight spots, and McVee enjoyed a productive game overall.
#8 Taj Woewodin
In what will likely prove a hell of a fortnight for the Melbourne father-son prospect, Woewodin has the perfect opportunity to impress his potential employers up close. On Saturday, he rotated through midfield and looked to provide his typical forward drive with some release run and punchy kicks. As the game opened up after half time, he was able to find more of the ball in transition and contribute to those kinds of passages for the Sharks.
#20 Josh Cripps
With his elder brother, Patrick watching on, Cripps made a terrific start in nabbing the first two kicks of the game. He was East Fremantle’s primary ruck but later spent more time up forward, having done most of his best work in the opening half. Cripps’ desire to be creative with his ruckwork was terrific and it proved effective as well, as he palmed down to his array of midfielders several times. His skills were also slick for a 199cm player, and a final term goal from the wrong side for a left-footer proved exactly that.
#25 Jack Williams
Having been held well for most of the game, Williams broke through in the second half to make a real impact on the final scoreline. He ended up being East Fremantle’s sole multiple goalkicker with two, both of which came after half time. His first was a well executed left-foot snap, and his second was a 45m set shot. While arguably most effective moving in a straight line at the ball, Williams managed to showcase his aerial prowess with a couple of terrific marks inside 50. He missed three set shot opportunities from similar spots, but is usually reliable in that department and could easily have finished with a bag.
AROUND THE GROUNDS:
The weekend’s qualifying semi-final saw Claremont bring an end to Swan Districts’ 13-game winning run, with the Tigers coming away nine-point victors in a fantastic comeback effort. Having fallen to the minor premiers just a fortnight ago, Claremont trailed at every break but snared four goals to one in the final term to salute 11.14 (80) to 11.5 (71).
Swan Elijah Hewett led all comers with 26 disposals and six inside 50s, supported by running machine Max Chipper (22 disposals, six marks). Defenders Bryce Watson and Lawson Humphries also ticked over 20 touches, while Ben Hewett got stuck in with 10 tackles. James Sullivan proved a key scoring source with four goals, as Brayden Jones snared two from 12 touches and seven marks. State Under 19s standout Rhett Bazzo was relatively quiet, but also snared a major score.
Claremont was served well by a couple of its stars, as spearhead Jacob van Rooyen contributed 4.4 while midfielder Angus Sheldrick notched three goals from 18 disposals. Bigman Eric Benning returned to good effect with 15 disposals, 15 hitouts and seven inside 50s, but Kendyll Blurton (21 disposals, seven tackles, eight inside 50s) led the Tigers’ disposal charts. Small forward Jahmal Stretch was also typically lively, managing a goal and five marks.
Up the grades, Subiaco midfielder Matthew Johnson was a standout performer in his side’s Reserves win over Swan Districts. The 193cm prospect racked up a game-high 27 disposals, four marks and four inside 50s as he continued his sparkling run of form at the level. In the League grade, Jesse Motlop snared a goal from eight touches and five inside 50s as South Fremantle went down to Subiaco.
Featured Image: East Fremantle’s Josh Browne gets a kick away | Credit: Pixell Photography via East Fremantle FC