Top 10 WAFL matches of 2022
Another outstanding season of WAFL took place in 2022, with 91.3 Sport FM securing a fifth straight best WAFL coverage award at the WA Football Media Awards.
As the year comes to a close, here are the top ten WAFL matches broadcast on 91.3 Sport FM in 2022, as recapped by Sport FM commentator and host of WAFL World Jacob Landsmeer.
10. Sharks start finals series on sensational note- 2022 Qualifying Final East Fremantle v Claremont
For many years these top ten lists would have long odds of featuring a Sharks game. Not anymore. East Fremantle were one of the stories of the year, rising from sixth spot in 2021 to record a top two finish and book a home qualifying final against Claremont.
The Blue and whites adopted an attacking game style throughout the season under coach Bill Monaghan, their adopted home ground at the WACA suiting their direct free flowing football.
With the WACA out of action though it was back to Shark Park for September, a date with the finals hardened Tigers a mouthwatering match up to launch the 2022 finals series.
Only percentage had separated the teams on the ladder at the end of the home and away season, Claremont beating the Sharks at the WACA in June before East Fremantle broke through for their first win over the Tigers since 2016 in the penultimate round, a 45 point demolition giving the Sharks home ground advantage for the clash.
The Sharks dictated terms from the outset, Milan Murdock influential in midfield along with Kyle Baskerville, Ryan Lester-Smith causing headaches on a wing.
Steven Miller’s knee injury early proved a vital loss for Ash Prescott’s side, robbing them of a tall and back up ruck option that left Ollie Eastland to shoulder most of the ruck load, Jye Bolton thrown in at different times to fill a void.
Jon Marsh was at his aggressive and dynamic best up forward for East Fremantle, booting three majors as the Sharks lead reached 47 points in the third term.
Claremont briefly threatened a comeback with four straight goals to narrow the margin to 17 points at the final break, before the home side steadied in the last with six goals to one.
It was East Fremantle’s first finals win since 2014, announcing them as a premiership contender as they booked a meeting with West Perth in the second semi-final.
MATCH WINNER: Jonathon Marsh was box office in 2022, winning the Sharks leading goal kicker award. IMAGE: The West Australian.
9. Tigers roar in to GF by clawing Sharks- 2022 Preliminary Final East Fremantle v Claremont
The Sharks went down to West Perth by 20 points the following week, while Claremont hit back hard to avoid a straight sets exit with a 59 point demolition over Peel Thunder, setting up a return clash between the clubs at East Fremantle Oval.
The Sharks went in as favourites but were without key midfielder Milan Murdock, who was a late withdrawal with a finger tendon injury.
Ash Prescott’s fine tactical finals series as coach continued, sending usual defender Jason Carter to play as a defensive forward on Cameron Eardley, who had dominated the qualifying final.
The Former Docker had two goals by quarter time, The Tigers with the first five majors of the match to completely jump the shell-shocked Sharks.
Claremont’s midfield lifted significantly from two weeks earlier, while Timm House continued his remarkable turnaround in form having been moved in to defence to stop any East Fremantle attacking forays.
Jye Bolton had 29 touches in another dominant display while Ben Elliott and Ben Edwards also had a telling say on the game, a final term fightback not enough for the Sharks as Claremont won by 28 points, booking a Grand Final berth with the Falcons.
A remarkable 76-point turnaround from the opening week of the final’s series, a deflating finish to a fine season for East Fremantle, the Tigers in to their second Grand Final in three years.
REMARKABLE TURNAROUND: Former Docker Jason Carter's move forward was vital to the Tigers preliminary final win over the Sharks.
8. Falcons and Tigers play out thriller on Good Friday- Round 1 West Perth v Claremont
A West Perth and Claremont clash decided in the dying moments… in April. The season was bookended by such results, in what was the first Sport FM broadcast match of 2022.
It was a match with plenty of sub plots and story lines heading in, Darren Harris back at the helm of West Perth having been sensationally sacked by Claremont at the end of the 2020 season, while Anton Hamp had been lured out of retirement by the Falcons to line up against his former side.
The Falcons burst out of the blocks with the first three goals, Luke Meadows and Aaron Black influential in the middle of the ground while talls Tyler Keitel, Zak Patterson and Hamp himself all looked dangerous up forward.
On a warm day, a young Claremont side worked their way back in to the contest slowly but surely, Jye Bolton, Ryan Lim, Lachlan Martinis and 100th gamer Bailey Rogers all having an impact.
Trailing by nine points at half time the Tigers got on top in the third term, kicking three goals to grab the lead heading in to the final break.
When the visitors kicked the first two goals of the final term in a low scoring scrap it looked like the game was as good as decided, before two late majors for the Falcons set up a grandstand finish.
The home side ran out of time, Claremont holding on to win by four points, 9.11 (65) to 9.7 (61). What they would have given for a replicated result in October.
Ash Prescott’s side had eight players who had played 10 games or less, while the Falcons had seven with 100 games or more of WAFL under their belt.
Perhaps on a warm April afternoon it was no surprise the young Tiger cubs overran their more experienced opponents.
MILESTONE MAN: Bailey Rogers wins a hard ball in his 100th game, a thriller against West Perth. IMAGE: The West Australian.
7. Thunder send Bulldogs packing in Fremantle Oval boil over- 2022 Elimination Final South Fremantle v Peel Thunder
South Fremantle have been a perennially strong club in the modern era of the WAFL. Well led on and off the field, the Bulldogs success over the past decade may well be debated whenever this September laden period comes to an end, but a premiership and finals every year since 2016 represents a strong era for the Port based club.
A shock loss to West Coast in round 10 proved pivotal for the Bulldogs campaign, costing them a top three spot in a very even 2022 season.
An elimination final clash with Peel Thunder loomed as a tough assignment, Fremantle’s progression in the AFL Finals series allowing up to 13 Docker listed players to turn out for the Mandurah based outfit.
It didn’t look like it was going to matter in the first half, as 200th gamer Haiden Schloithe led a strong Souths showing, if not inaccurate as the Bulldogs kicked 4.9 to half time.
As so often is the case that inaccuracy allowed Peel to stay in the game despite a number of Dockers players being off their best, perhaps jaded by the fact Fremantle’s season had finished the day before at the hands of Collingwood.
Sam Sturt and Matt Taberner emerged from their first half slumber while Lloyd Meek got on top of Hamish Free in an intriguing ruck battle, Peel kicking six goals in a dynamic third term.
The teams traded blows in a heavyweight final term, Sturt the match winner as he finished with three goals to end the Bulldogs season, their earliest exit from the finals in seven years.
Todd Curley’s side will rue missed opportunities in the first half and even in the final term, a return of 8.13 so costly in a nine point defeat.
It meant the end of superstar Schloithe’s WAFL career after 200 games, a premiership and a Sandover Medal, and one wonders whether South Fremantle will be able to scale the same heights of recent seasons without him in 2023.
END OF AN ERA: Haiden Schloithe bursts through traffic in his 200th and final game. IMAGE: Shazza J Photography.
6. Keitel kicks Falcons to a share of the points in dramatic draw- Round 15 South Fremantle v West Perth
Draws are rare in Australian rules football. Even more rare in the WAFL. Heading in to the 2022 season, the most recent draw in the league competition was in June 2012.
A cold late July day at Fremantle Oval ten years later was the scene for South Fremantle and West Perth, a crucial game for the make up of the top three and the coveted double chance.
In a tight match nearly all day with occasional showers making ball handling difficult, neither team lead by more than 15 points at any stage in a slow burning arm wrestle of a contest.
The Falcons looked like they were getting on top in the second term but kicked 2.6 to only lead by ten points at the half.
Souths struck back in the third term but neither team could sustain their dominance, West Perth by two points in a tight contest with a quarter to play.
Both teams looked like they had heroes in the final term, Aidan Lynch slotting a goal in the run early in time on to put his side in front before Dylan Main dribbled through a major to delight the Doggies fans, seemingly the match winner.
With only seconds remaining Tyler Keitel won a free kick in the ruck for a shepherd, and nervelessly slotted a goal that locked the scores.
The Bulldogs won the clearance and were deep in attack when the siren sounded, Brandon Donaldson’s snap on goal coming just seconds afterwards to see the scores locked at 9.11 (65) apiece.
Shane Nelson and Aidan Lynch were the best for the Falcons, while Tom Blechynden and Haiden Schloithe had plenty of impact in midfield for Souths.
A drawn result proved vital for West Perth to give them breathing room at the top of the table, while the two points rather than four hurt South Fremantle’s chances of finishing in the top three.
Ultimately, everyone went home disappointed with the game without a winner. Extra time anyone?
LAST GASP HERO: Tyler Keitel kicked the final goal of a tight battle with the Bulldogs that finished locked on 65 points apiece in round 15. IMAGE: The West Australian.
5. Croweaters spoil Sandgropers party at Optus- 2022 State Game Western Australia v South Australia
State football isn’t what it used to be. Ask football fans of the 1970’s and 1980’s and some of the great state games at Subiaco on a Tuesday afternoon where the city stopped to see the stars of that era play.
These days state games comprise of an annual Haydn Bunton Cup clash between Western Australia and South Australia, the best of the WAFL and SANFL on show.
South Australia had won the previous two clashes between the sides in 2019 and 2021, the Croweaters coached by dual premiership coach Jade Sheedy.
Western Australia controversially left out triple Simpson Medallist Jye Bolton from their squad, opting for a younger cohort suited to the vast expanses of Optus Stadium.
South Australia held the ascendency for most of the match, Cam Shepherd’s side left to lament poor goalkicking in the first half as they went into the sheds with 3.9 on the board.
South Australia’s half back line was controlling the contest, Casey Voss (son of Michael) in particular outstanding.
WA found their kicking boots in the third term, kicking three goals to one to begin to turn the tide as fans started to flock in to Optus Stadium ahead of the Eagles-Demons AFL clash that would follow.
Daniel Menzel looked like he had sealed the game for the visitors before a late Bailey Rogers goal set up a thrilling finale, South Australian born ex Dockers midfielder Stefan Giro hitting the post with 90 seconds on the clock in what would prove Western Australia’s final chance at victory.
A terrific battle between two proud states, Leigh Kitchin awarded the Simpson Medal for his 30 disposals and 8 inside 50’s, leading from the front in a narrow loss.
The Haydn Bunton Cup returned to South Australia for a third straight year, but 2023 is the year of the Sandgroper, right?
HAPPY IN SA: The Croweaters celebrate their narrow win over WA in May. IMAGE: SANFL.
4. Lucky 13- Bulldogs keep Sharks at bay after late Eardley miss- Round 7 South Fremantle v East Fremantle
The rivalry between South Fremantle and East Fremantle is the oldest in Western Australian football. The late great Percy Johnson used to tell us regularly on Sport FM about the days when the two clubs shared Fremantle Oval for training on a weeknight in winter, often exchanging barbs from opposite ends of the ground.
Of more recent times, it hasn’t been much of a rivalry at all. Heading in to the first Fremantle derby of 2022, South Fremantle had won 12 derbies in a row against their cross town rivals, by an average margin of 69 points. Simply, it hadn’t been a contest for many years due to the Sharks spectacular fall from grace.
Things were set to be different this time. East Fremantle had won five of their first six games to announce themselves as a finals threat, while Souths were on slightly shaky ground at 3-3 having suffered losses to Claremont, West Perth and Swan Districts in the space of a month of football.
The Bulldogs dominated the first term but East Fremantle defended strongly to only allow Souths to kick 3.4, then turning the tables with a stunning second quarter that saw the Sharks kick 7 goals to one to lead by 21 points, Milan Murdock in absolutely everything for the visitors.
STEELY RESOLVE: Bulldogs young gun Steely Green gets a kick away in Souths thrilling win over East Fremantle in the WA Day derby.
Cody Leggett pushed the lead to 27 in the third term before Souths snapped in to gear, kicking the next six goals in just 15 minutes to grab the lead back.
The final term was an absorbing arm wrestle, Souths defending as East Fremantle continued to throw everything at them, Blaine Boekhorst trying to lift his side over the line.
Late goals to the eventual Sandover Medallist and Corey Holmes reduced the lead to just two points with just seconds left, Cameron Eardley taking a strong contested mark only 25 metres out on a slight angle.
Having played such impressive football down back Eardley had a chance to win the game down the other end of the ground but shanked his kick and kicked the ball out on the full to blow his chance to be a hero for the blue and whites.
The siren sounded just moments later, Souths holding on to make it 13 wins in a row, 11.15 (81) to 12.7 (79).
A crowd in excess of 6000 saw a brilliant game of football, full of momentum swings and individual performances of note. It’s a shame the game will be remembered for a skill error.
3. Sharks and Falcons play out epic at the WACA- Round 8 East Fremantle v West Perth
As the saying goes, there’s always next week in footy. Problem was for both East Fremantle and West Perth, the next week came around rather quickly in round eight.
Both sides had featured on the WA Day public holiday on the Monday, forced to back up just five days later at the WACA in a clash between the top two sides on the WAFL table.
West Perth hadn’t suffered defeat since their round one loss to the Tigers, the Sharks still smarting from their two point defeat to the Bulldogs.
The Sharks kicked the first three goals inside the first 15 minutes to fire shots across the bow at the Falcons, both teams willing to move the ball quickly on a fast deck at the WACA.
West Perth regrouped and came out firing in the second term, grabbing the lead as Shane Nelson got on top in the middle and Keegan Knott became the focal point inside 50.
Cody Leggett was plucking everything up the other end for the Sharks, his long kicking a feature as he kept his side ahead in what was quickly becoming one of the games of the season.
After a quiet opening half and a half time serve from Sport FM co-commentator Tony Micale Aaron Black inspired a dominant term from West Perth in the third, kicking a running goal and finding plenty of the ball playing on a wing.
Problem was Darren Harris’ side wasn’t taking their chances in front of goal, registering 4.8 for the quarter to keep East Fremantle in the game when they were off their best.
Leggett kicked one of the goals of the year when he broke a strong Mark Hamilton tackle deep in the right forward pocket, able to scrounge a kick at goal to steady his side in a moment of individual brilliance.
Knott was dominating his match up with Matthew Burton but kicked 4.5 to squander a big haul, just two points in the contest at three quarter time West Perth’s way.
In one of the great final terms of the season that just about claimed my voice (and later proved to be covid) East Fremantle kicked the first three goals to seemingly grab the game by the scruff of the neck, only for another Cameron Eardley error to gift Anton Hamp a goal and keep the visitors in it.
West Perth attacked relentlessly in the final 15 minutes, denied by the brilliance of Sharks captain Matthew Jupp who kept reigning Bernie Naylor Medallist Tyler Keitel goalless on the afternoon.
Aidan Lynch and Mitch Dobson missed relative sitters in the dying moments but when Dobson atoned for his error with a towering mark in the goal square, there was just three points in the contest with a heartbeat remaining.
Keitel had a chance to be the hero for the Falcons, his frenzied snap missing to the right in what proved to the final chance for his team.
The siren sounded to seal a magnificent East Fremantle victory, finishing the right side of a close finish this time around in what was probably the best game of football for sheer skill and aesthetics we saw all year on Sport FM.
TOUGH CONTEST: East Fremantle's Luke English feels the full force of this Sam Rotham tackle in a tight round 8 clash at the WACA. IMAGE: WAFL.
2. Covid depleted Tigers surge past Subi- Round 2 Claremont v Subiaco
Without doubt the greatest home and away win of the season by any team, and one of the greatest triumphs in modern WAFL history.
Covid-19 was rife in Perth in March and April, as we opened up our borders and prepared ourselves to cop a wave of the disease in the process.
It affected nearly all WAFL clubs in the early rounds, but none more so than Claremont ahead of their round two clash with Subiaco at Revo Fitness Stadium.
14 changes were forced upon Ash Prescott’s side for the contest, losing 612 games worth of experience including Sandover Medallists Jye Bolton and Bailey Rogers as well as experienced trio Lachlan Martinis, Alex Manuel and captain Declan Mountford.
The Tigers had eight debutants, including Zac Mainwaring the son of late Eagles great Chris, while only Ryan Lim had more than 100 games of experience, leading the side against the reigning premiers.
Safe to say Claremont were the longest of odds heading in to the game, things going according to script in the first term as the Lions kicked four goals to one.
The sides must have swapped jumpers at quarter time because Claremont lifted in sensational fashion in the second term, booting six goals to tie the scores at half time.
As the saying goes crisis creates opportunity, and midfielder Ben Elliott certainly took his, dominating the opening half with 20 disposals and 2 goals. Ben Edwards pace was causing the Lions headaches, while stand in captain Lim was everywhere in a strong performance on a wing.
Claremont fans may have thought they had been transported back to the days of the Krakouer brothers with indigenous debutant duo Lawrence Evans and Patrick Kitchener sparking their team to the lead, a huge boilover looming in the process.
Subiaco made their move in the final quarter to close to within a goal as Claremont players tired, but the Tigers weren’t to be denied as late majors to Timm House and Max Minear sealed an incredible 15-point victory, 13.11 (89) to 11.8 (74).
Elliott finished with 32 disposals and 3 goals while House booted four goals, Lim with 37 disposals in a result that Prescott later hailed as his finest as coach of the club.
Subiaco slumped to 0-2 for the first time this century, in a memorable afternoon at Tigerland. I’ll always remember it, as it was my 29th birthday!
TIGER TIME: Tigers debutants Zac Mainwaring and Ben Harding celebrate an epic triumph over Subiaco in round two. IMAGE: The West Australian.
1. Dobson delivers Falcons a famous flag – 2022 WAFL Grand Final West Perth v Claremont
The biggest story of the WAFL season came in the heart of winter, when Optus Stadium was ruled out as the Grand Final venue due to a scheduling conflict with a T20 international between Australia and England.
Where would the Grand Final be played? The WACA? Not available. Fremantle Oval? Not again. Arena Joondalup? Can’t give the flag to West Perth on a silver platter.
After months of speculation the Grand Final was awarded to Leederville Oval in August, sparking intense debate from the WA football public. While central and a neutral venue, Leederville’s surface had been routinely criticised by players and supporters alike throughout the winter months, with many believing it would not be fit to host such a prestigious event on the WA football calendar.
Given four weeks to get the ground right and helped by sunshine in the week leading up to the decider Leederville came up a treat for a cracking match up, West Perth and Claremont meeting in a Grand Final for the first time since 1993.
While West Perth were minor premiers and heavy favourites the interesting subplot was that Claremont had won the two meetings between the clubs in the home and away season, by 4 points in round one and 29 in round 13.
West Coast and Falcons premiership player Mark Hutchings was ruled out in the lead up to the contest with a hamstring injury, depriving Darren Harris of premiership experience and leaving just Aaron Black and Shane Nelson from the club’s most recent premiership team of 2013.
Claremont was coming off it’s best performance of the season in the preliminary final, hoping for the premiership that eluded their grasp in 2020.
Darren Harris coached the Tigers that day, but was now back at West Perth having first coached the Falcons to a flag in 2003.
A glorious day set the scene with a packed crowd at Leederville, the Falcons qualifying for Grand Finals all three grades.
Losses in the Colts and Reserves put pressure on the league outfit, a real arm wrestle of a start seeing the game without a goal for the opening 14 minutes before youngster Corey Rundle kicked two goals in a minute to burst the game to life for West Perth.
Claremont were wasteful in the opening term, kicking five behinds to botch what had been a solid start in general play.
A late Mitch Dobson goal gave the minor premiers a handy buffer at the first change, Jye Bolton inspiring a Claremont comeback in the second stanza as the Tigers kicked three quick goals.
There was just nine points in it at half time before Tyler Keitel burst to life in the third term, breaking clear of Timm House to kick two crucial goals.
The margin pushed out to as much as 26 points midway through the quarter before late goals to Max Spyvee and Declan Mountford left the game on a knife’s edge with a quarter to play.
All of a sudden Claremont had all the momentum, Jack Buller marking everything and kicking a goal in the opening minute of the last term before Callan England reduced the margin to under a straight kick at the nine-minute mark.
It was edge of your seat stuff with a premiership up for grabs, no score for 15 minutes as both sides threw everything at each other.
There were memorable moments everywhere in the last term, from Dean Munns telling spoil deep in defence that saved a certain goal to Zac Gaudagnin’s sensational mark on the wing over Ben Elliott, not to forget inclusion Joe Hinder’s sensational run-down tackle on the same Tigers player.
But the moment for the archive was Mitch Dobson’s frenzied soccer goal at the 24 minute mark that proved the premiership clincher for West Perth, Sasha Kernutt’s smother also worthy of a mention to allow the former Royal to throw his boot at the ball.
Claremont went forward one last time but time had expired, leaving them stuck in heartbreak hotel for a second time in three years.
Fittingly, at their spiritual home and home ground for many years it was a West Perth win at Leederville Oval in front of a crowd of 16,791.
Perhaps the most glorious scenes came after the final siren, with fans flocking on the ground to celebrate with the Falcons players, Darren Harris proclaimed as the prodigal son once again as he was raised on to the shoulders of fans in a golden image that will be etched in to the history books.
Luke Meadows won the Simpson Medal for his 20 disposals, backing up his runner up in the Sandover Medal earlier in the week.
As exclaimed in commentary, Darren Harris had the last laugh against the club that had sacked him two years earlier. A memorable day at Leederville that will live long in the memory of all of those who were there, and all of those who heard it on 91.3 Sport FM.
FALCONS FLY HIGH: West Perth celebrate their 2022 premiership. IMAGE: WAFL.