Bulldogs win through to Grand Final
South Fremantle has prevailed in the 2020 WAFL preliminary final, defeating West Perth by 21 points at Fremantle Oval on Sunday.
The 11.5 (71) to 7.8 (50) result puts the Bulldogs in to their second Grand Final in as many seasons, gifting them a second chance at Claremont who proved too good for the red and whites in the second semi-final.
Todd Curley’s men will face a nervous wait over a pair of star midfielders, Haiden Schloithe reported in the second quarter for striking Ben Delaporte and Jake Florenca appearing to suffer a calf injury in the final minutes of the match.
The game began under sunny skies, Zach Strom kicking the game’s opening goal inside five minutes after a strong contested mark 30 metres from goal.
Tyler Keitel responded emphatically for the Falcons, marking at left half forward before wheeling and slotting on the run from 45 metres out to continue his strong recent form.
Bulldogs skipper Dylan Main kicked what would be the only other goal of the term, West Perth squandering a couple of opportunities to record a wasteful 1.4 for the quarter.
Chief playmaker Luke Meadows day was over before the quarter time siren after suffering a heavy concussion in a bruising collision with Zach Strom, the Falcon bravely going back with the flight but copping the full force of both Strom and then the Fremantle Oval turf.
Keitel was causing headaches for the South Fremantle defence as he kicked his second major early in the second stanza, before a Schloithe brain fade saw the Sandover Medallist reported for a stomach punch to ruckman Ben Delaporte and the ball subsequently turned over, Zak Patterson taking a big contested mark from Delaporte’s kick and slotting his first career major at league level.
It was a term of undisciplined acts for the home side, with Dylan Main denied a shot at goal just before half time directly in front 20 metres out and Ben Rioli giving away a down the ground free kick for bowling over Keegan Knott at half forward, Patterson unable to capitalise with a botched set shot.
Brandon Donaldson arrested some momentum back with his team’s first goal of the term, before some Schloithe brilliance from a boundary line stoppage gave South Fremantle a narrow four point lead at the half.
The heavens opened during the break to make conditions difficult as the new Fremantle Oval floodlights were put to good use, Schloithe channelling his earlier frustration in to on field brilliance as he slotted another boundary line stunner to start the third term.
It began a Bulldog burst of four goals in the opening 15 minutes of the term that burst the Falcons bubble, the two Zach’s Dent and Strom kicking majors with the former nabbing his first ever WAFL goal on the run from 45 metres.
Jimmy Miller added his name to the goalkicking list with a great mark 30 metres from goal from a long Kade Stewart kick, the margin all of a sudden 28 points in favour of Souths.
Keegan Knott was able to pull one back but Cody Ninyette marked his first league appearance for South Fremantle with a late goal, the former Demon congratulated warmly by his new team mates.
West Perth were still getting their opportunities thanks to a tireless midfield led by captain Aaron Black and Shane Nelson, the latter with a late snap that was off target to leave the margin at 26 points at the final break.
Caleb Datson all but sealed the game early in the last after winning a free kick directly in front of goal, Bulldogs fans able to enjoy the final term knowing their team was on the way to their second straight Grand Final.
Knott provided one of the highlights of the match with a torpedo punt goal from 50 metres out as he finished with three goals, while former Docker Nick Suban sunk a shot from a similar distance in front of the Bulldogs members to put an exclamation mark on proceedings for his team.
Having recovered from a knee injury to take his place in the match Florenca then limped from the field in the final minutes with what appeared to be a calf injury, with the club hopeful the Sandover Medal fancy suffered cramp rather than a strain.
Schloithe was best afield with 24 disposals and 2 goals for South Fremantle, but will await a verdict from the WAFL MRP on his second quarter report on Monday to see if he is clear to play in the decider.
Florenca and skipper Dylan Main each had 21 disposals, dashing defender Dent with 20 in his first league match since round four while veteran big man Brock Higgins was magnificent in ruck with 46 hitouts, more than double West Perth’s team hitout tally of 21.
Nelson had 35 disposals in another outstanding midfield performance, Black with 27 with no other West Perth player able to record more than 20 disposals.
Liam Tedesco had 18 disposals and 9 tackles and young gun Connor West showed his bright future in the game with 16 touches in a hard-working effort.
The 21 point triumph means South Fremantle face Claremont for the second time in three weeks in the 2020 WAFL Grand Final next Sunday, bouncedown at 3:10 PM at Fremantle Oval.
IMAGE: WAFL Twitter.