WAFL Round 20 Wrap
Round 20 of the 2021 WAFL season proved to be one of the closest in the competition’s history, three matches decided by a combined total of 10 points in a pulsating weekend of football.
East Fremantle overcame a late East Perth fightback to win by two points at Leederville Oval to record consecutive wins for the first time since 2019, while Peel Thunder stormed home to defeat West Coast by the same margin at Rushton Park to cap off a superb Saturday of WAFL.
Then on Sunday it was one of the games of the season at Arena Joondalup, West Perth kicking the final two goals of the game to beat South Fremantle by six points having trailed by as much as 26 points earlier in the match, Tyler Keitel and Rudy Riddoch pivotal to the result as the Falcons flew in to third spot on the WAFL ladder.
East Fremantle and East Perth were battling it out to be the best of the also rans in season 2021, eying off sixth spot with both teams heading in to the contest with 6-9 win/loss records.
With intermittent showers making conditions difficult early in the match it was the home side who made the better start, pushing out to an early nine point lead at the first change.
Eddie Simpson was providing a focal point in attack while midfielders Rohan Kerr and Angus Scott were everywhere in the clinches, Angus Schumacher also industrious in midfield.
With East Fremantle 11 points down at the half time break the Sharks were able to produce another inspired third quarter to turn their fortunes around, slamming on seven goals to two to take a 21 point lead in to the final term.
Jonathon Marsh was the catalyst with a dominant performance in midfield, forwards Dillon O’Reilly and Hugh Dixon causing headaches in the air while young ruckman Brynn Teakle excelled in the middle, allowing Luke Strnadica to spend more time forward to stretch the Royals defence.
Just when it looked like the Sharks were set to pull away the Royals dug their heels in, kicking the first four goals of the final term to snatch the lead heading in to time on.
Matthew Young was starring inside forward 50, eventually kicking four goals for the term while Simpson also broke through to hit the scoreboard.
Nick Kommer hurt his former side with a quick response before Marsh gave his team breathing space with a goal of his own.
Young seemed like he was going to be the match winner when he slotted his fifth goal of a crazy contest, but East Fremantle won the ball out of the middle through young ruckman Teakle and kept the ball in their half of the ground, the siren sounding with East Fremantle winners 13.8 (86) to 12.12 (84).
Remarkably the triumph for the Sharks gave the club consecutive wins for the first time since rounds 6 and 7 2019, finishing the year strongly with one match to come against West Perth at East Fremantle Oval.
Blaine Boekhorst had 26 disposals and kicked a long range third term goal to be among his side’s best, captain Matthew Jupp outstanding with 25 touches and 7 marks and thwarting numerous Royal attacking salvos in a gripping final term.
Marsh was the talisman for a second straight week with 20 disposals and nine inside 50’s, while O’Reilly and Dixon each kicked three majors.
Kerr was East Perth’s best player with 30 disposals, stand in skipper Angus Scott also with 30 touches in a strong midfield display while Schumacher had 26 disposals and 6 inside 50’s to continue his strong finish to the season.
East Perth’s campaign will come to an end with a clash against Subiaco at Leederville next Saturday, no decision reached on coach Jeremy Barnard’s future heading in to 2022.
Peel produced the biggest comeback of the season to defeat West Coast at Rushton Park, coming from 44 points down to triumph by two points.
With both clubs anchored on four wins as well and desperate to try and avoid a wooden spoon finish in 2021, it was always going to be fascinating to see how it played out and it was the Eagles who looked on track to get their fifth win of the season.
West Coast dominated with nine goals to two in the opening half to head into the half-time break with a 38-point advantage, but the game then took a dramatic turn in the second half the way of the Thunder.
Despite having lost nine of their past 10 games this season, the Thunder came out and kicked eight unanswered goals in the second to turn that deficit into a lead, and the eventual 10.16 (76) to 11.8 (74) victory.
Bailey Williams was the dominant player on the ground in the opening half for West Coast, dominating in the ruck and around the ground before going forward to boot two goals as the Eagles flew to a 21 point lead at the first change.
That was 38 by the half as Williams and AFL listed midfielders Xavier O’Neill and Brayden Ainsworth found plenty of the footy, Peel only able to muster 2.9 to half time.
Michael Randall inspired a third term revival for the Thunder, but the margin still remained 19 points at three quarter time and work still to be done to make ground on the Eagles.
Inspired by outgoing coach Cam Shepherd who urged his team to take the game on with the game up for grabs, Peel kicking the first four goals of the final term to hit the front.
Blair Bell put the Thunder into the lead at the 22-minute mark of the final term after a strong mark and finish before young star Tyrone Thorne snapped a goal to extend the margin out to eight points.
Lennon Marlin would respond immediately with a goal for the Eagles but they ran out of time as the Thunder were able to clinch a famous comeback victory, 10.16 (76) to 11.8 (74).
Randall was outstanding for the Thunder with 36 disposals and 11 marks, Stefan Giro (26 disposals) and livewire forward/midfielder Tyrone Thorne (25 disposals and 2 goals) also pivotal to the result.
O’Neill had 32 disposals and 11 inside 50’s while Williams dominated the contest with young Peel ruckmen Jackson Broadbent and Sandy Brock, winning 16 disposals, 58 hitouts and kicking two goals to showcase his promise.
The win moves Peel Thunder a game ahead of West Coast, essentially making the race for the wooden spoon a race in two with two rounds remaining.
West Perth and South Fremantle played out one of the great WAFL contests of the season at Arena Joondalup to conclude the round, the Falcons flying home to win an instant classic by one straight kick.
South Fremantle started the stronger at a venue they hadn’t lost at since 2015, kicking three first term goals with the wind advantage to the Northern end.
Returning Bulldogs midfielder Jake Florenca made an inspired start in his first league match since last year’s preliminary final, having 11 disposals and kicking a goal having overcome a torn Achilles that deprived him of a chance to play in South Fremantle’s 2020 premiership.
West Perth hit back in the second term, skipper Aaron Black leading the way with an outstanding performance in midfield and forwards Rudy Riddoch, Tyler Keitel and Keegan Knott all hitting the scoreboard as the Falcons levelled the scores approaching half time.
Zach Strom was causing headaches for Tristan Hobley on a wing, the versatile big man kicking his team’s two goals for the term as the red and whites led by seven points at half time.
Haiden Schloithe was swung forward with great success in the third term, kicking a goal and playing a part in two more as the Bulldogs appeared to make the decisive break in the match, pushing out to a 26 point advantage.
Late goals for Steven Potente and a sublime sidestep and snap from Riddoch had the margin at a manageable 13 points at the final change, the Bulldogs playing for top spot and the Falcons looking for the double chance.
Tyler Keitel broke free of diligent defender Noah Strom to kick two majors, the first from a strong set shot and the second a crafty snap after taking a clean possession from a ball up inside 50.
The second of those majors gave the Falcons the lead for the first time in the match, South Fremantle hitting back with consecutive goals to Haiden Schloithe and Blake Schlensog to reclaim the lead.
With time running out it would appear as though the Bulldogs had done enough, only for Riddoch to conjure another sensational boundary line snap to level the scores with 25 minutes having elapsed in the final term.
Skipper Black claimed a superb contested mark on the paint of 50 and looked set to kick a score to give his side the lead, instead handballing off to Tyler Keitel who’s long bomb failed to score, bouncing out of bounds in the left forward pocket.
Keitel won a free kick from the resulting boundary throw in, legged as he tried to shrug Bulldogs big man Hamish Free aside.
The star forward then cooly slotted what would prove to be the final goal of the contest from his set shot, giving the Falcons an incredible victory against the odds in a game South Fremantle led for the most part.
Black was magnificent for the home side, recording 40 disposals and laying 13 tackles in one of the great individual performances of the season.
Shane Nelson was also heroic with 32 disposals, Keitel with 4 goals and 15 touches to take his season tally to 60 majors including the all-important match winner.
Florenca had 29 disposals on his comeback to be among his side’s best players, Tom Blechynden also with 29 disposals and Schloithe recording 22 touches and two majors in a heartbreaking loss for the visitors.
In an incredible round of football all three games were decided by single figure margins, the first time such a feat has occurred in the WAFL since round 13, 1947.
The result leaves Subiaco on top of the table with two rounds to play, South Fremantle in second spot followed by West Perth in third and Claremont in fourth, those clubs separated only by percentage.
Swan Districts sit a game further back in fifth spot, assured of finals and hoping to put pressure on clubs above them heading in to September football.
East Fremantle sit a game clear of East Perth in sixth spot, with Peel Thunder, Perth and West Coast making up the remainder of the table.
Round 21 sees Peel Thunder play Perth, East Perth face Subiaco in a battle of the co-tenants, East Fremantle hosting West Perth, South Fremantle at home to Swan Districts and Claremont facing West Coast at Revo Fitness Stadium.