Bulldogs win epic WAFL Grand Final
South Fremantle have won their first WAFL league premiership since 2009, defeating Claremont by 3 points in an epic decider at Fremantle Oval on Sunday.
Key forwards Mason Shaw and Jimmy Miller bobbed up with crucial last quarter goals to see off a gutsy Tigers outfit, winning 6.10 (46) to 6.7 (43) in front of 10,179 fans.
Claremont had qualified first for the 2020 Grand Final having trounced the Bulldogs by 47 points in the second semi-final, South Fremantle booking a rematch with a 21 point triumph over West Perth in the preliminary final.
Todd Curley’s side lost Jake Florenca to a serious achilles injury, robbing the side of one of their star midfielders with youngster Jarrad Doney given an opportunity in his place.
Claremont were strengthened by the return of Anton Hamp and Dylan Smallwood as bookends at either end of the ground, Tom Lee and Anthony Davis the unlucky two to make way.
The opening quarter was a physical affair, South Fremantle with the opening goal courtesy of big man Zach Strom.
Claremont captain Kane Mitchell was helped from the ground in the opening ten minutes with a suspected dislocated shoulder, but emerged again ten minutes later to play a further part in the game.
Star forward Alec Waterman got on the end of a Rylie Morgan footpass to slot his side’s first goal, scores level at the first break.
The Bulldogs should have been ahead though, with forward Cody Ninyette missing a relative sitter from 20 metres out on a slight angle.
Brandon Donaldson bobbed up with the first major of the second term in an arm wrestle of the contest, Souths in control of field position but continuing to squander chances on the scoreboard.
Waterman made them pay for their inaccuracy when he converted another shot from 50 metres out, the final goal of the term as the Bulldogs led by three at the break.
Ben Edwards looked to be another casualty for Claremont when he was helped from the field after a heavy head knock before half time, but recovered to take his place in the third term as his side looked for momentum kicking with the aid of the breeze.
Zach Strom was the telling big man on the ground for either side, kicking his second goal after some dash from Caleb Datson opened up space inside forward 50.
Dylan Main added another to push the margin out to a game high 16 points, Claremont’s Grand Final hopes on tenterhooks.
Callan England got the Tigers back in to the game with an Alex Manuel handpass in the goal square, the play started by a surging Jye Bolton kick inside 50.
Edwards went from seeing stars to becoming one with snapped goal from 15 metres out, before Waterman added his third major with a sensational snap to give his side the lead at the final break.
Datson suffered a hamstring strain chasing a loose ball on the wing, ruling him out of the remainder of the game to leave Souths one man down.
Neither side could land a decisive blow in the early salvos of the final term with the crowd at fever pitch, Waterman missing a set shot from 45 metres to give his side an eight point lead.
Having been well held by Haydn Busher, Mason Shaw got on the end of a hurried kick inside 50 and kicked truly on the run for the red and whites to put them back in front, Miller converting a superb set shot from the boundary line to almost put the result beyond the Tigers reach.
Declan Hardisty answered within a minute as he snapped a brilliant boundary goal of his own, but Claremont couldn’t conjure the go ahead goal in the final moments, South Fremantle holding on for a memorable premiership triumph at their home venue.
Despite the defeat star Claremont midfielder Jye Bolton was awarded the Simpson Medal as best afield, finishing with 35 disposals and 7 inside 50’s in a magnificent individual performance.
Bailey Rogers had 24 touches while Jared Hardisty finished with 22 disposals and 8 tackles in another workmanlike effort.
Jacob Dragovich led his side’s individual disposal tally with 23, Zach Strom his side’s best with 16 disposals, 6 marks and 2.2 in a domineering performance as a key forward.
Skipper Main had 20 disposals while Brock Higgins had 15 touches to go with his 33 hitouts in an absorbing tussle with Oliver Eastland.
A fitting end to a shortened season, the Bulldogs triumphed in their 120th year in their first flag since 2009, a game that will be remembered for a many years to come.
Earlier in the day East Perth ended a 37 year reserves premiership drought with a 29 point win over Claremont, while Subiaco were also far too good for the Tigers in the Colts decider, winning by 59 points.