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  • Writer's pictureJohn Townsend

Festival of footy could solve East Fremantle final dilemma

East Fremantle have a problem.

It will disappear if they beat Subiaco in the top two clash on Saturday and become minor premier for the first time since 1998.

But if Subiaco win by six goals or more at Leederville Oval, they will swap with the Sharks at the top of the ladder.

And that creates an issue for East Fremantle who don’t have a home ground but would have to come up with a cunning plan to host the qualifying final in the first weekend of September.

They have already lost Subiaco Oval as a training venue.

When the WA Football Commission advised them a few weeks ago to have a run on the barely-used but century-old home of football, the governing body forgot that the deal it signed with the Subiaco council less than two years earlier only allowed junior teams and umpires to train there.

That shemozzle degenerated into a fiasco when a blue with a security guard objecting to the Sharks using the old footy dugouts to avoid the rain brought the matter to a head and sent East Fremantle packing.

Yet if finding a training ground is a challenge, the task of finding a final venue could be infinitely more difficult. The Sharks have been negotiating with South Fremantle to play any home finals at Fremantle Oval, their home for half a century until they moved a couple of kilometres east in 1952.

While the animosity between the clubs prevented a repeat of the ground-sharing relationship that marked their first five decades, and has been demonstrated successfully by East Perth and Subiaco at Leederville Oval, their ill-feeling thawed sufficiently to take on a short-term arrangement at the ground in September.

But the ever-present tension over ground availability means it is not as easy as it looks.

Fremantle also have a presence at the ground through their AFLW team and it is the Dockers who will have priority at the start of next month when they host a season-opening derby against West Coast.

So why not this for a solution?

If East Fremantle get beaten by six goals on Saturday - and that is a very clear possibility given that the Subi juggernaut have extraordinary late-season IP from finishing on top of the home-and-away ladder in 11 of the past 20 years – why don’t they negotiate to play a double-header with the Dockers on September 3?

The WAFL qualifier can’t be played on the Saturday because the ground will be undergoing derby preparations but an earlier match on the Sunday is far less of a logistical challenge.

There are extra changerooms at the ground to cater for two matches, the same television broadcaster will do both matches so there could be a seamless technical and contractual transition from one game to another, and the prospect of a bumper crowd is increased with two events to attend on the same day.

A crowd of 5533 watched on when the two AFLW teams met at Fremantle early last year. Eight months later, a crowd of 4567 attended the decrepit East Fremantle Oval to watch the Sharks take on low-drawing Claremont in the WAFL preliminary final.

That is just over 10,000 at two prominent football matches in Fremantle in 2022.

An AFLW-WAFL double-header might not drag a five-figure crowd through the gate but it could still be bigger than two stand-alone matches.

And with all football constituencies needing to find ways to grow the sport, why not combine the old and the new in a festival of male and female football?

As the WAFC likes to spruik, it could be a win-win. What’s to lose?



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