WAFL Round 9 Saturday Wrap: Demon Delight
Perth will play finals football for the first time since 1997 after a dramatic Saturday of results, defeating ladder leaders South Fremantle by 5 points under lights at Lathlain Park.
Three teams occupied fourth spot at different times during the day, Subiaco missing finals for the first time since 2013 as they suffered a 19 point lead to West Perth, East Perth snatching fourth spot with superior percentage after thrashing Peel Thunder by 71 points at Leederville Oval before the Demons heroics rendered that result null and void with their triumph over the Bulldogs.
The Lions started the day in fourth spot with a chance to stay there if they could defeat the Falcons on their home patch at Arena Joondalup, in perfect conditions for football.
Kicking with the aid of a two or three goal breeze to the Northern end in the opening stanza it was West Perth who started the better, key forwards Tyler Keitel (two) and Michael Lourey combining for the first three goals for their side, the returning Ryan Borchet the Lions sole goal scorer for the term.
When Keegan Knott added his name to the goal scoring list Geoff Valentine’s men had a very handy 15 point lead at the first break, the small forward breaking the scoring drought in the second term with another crafty snap.
Greg Clark responded for the Lions but the Falcons would still win the quarter when debutant Sasha Kernutt converted his set shot from the left forward pocket to help his team to a 20 point half time advantage.
A dominant third term from spearhead Keitel would put the result beyond doubt at the final change, the 2018 Bernie Naylor Medallist kicking three goals for the term as he completely dominated opponent Angus Litherland.
A late Clark goal for the Lions broke a six-goal run for the home side, but the margin was 46 points at three quarter time with West Perth looking good for a convincing win to lock away the double chance.
Subiaco’s percentage had started the day at 114.55 but was dwindling with only three goals in the first three quarters, East Perth pushing away from Peel Thunder to put pressure on the Lions finals hopes with a quarter to play.
Beau Wardman’s men lifted in the last, kicking five goals to one to stretch the statisticians and push West Perth out of second spot by 0.02 of a percentage point, Ben Reid’s late behind adjusting the top four but not in a favourable way for Subiaco as the Royals edged them out of the finals race by 0.072% to end the Lions hopes of a third successive premiership.
The 12.5 (77) to 8.10 (58) score line means West Perth finished third on the table, missing second spot by a solitary point but bundling their archrivals from the final four in the process.
Shane Nelson found plenty of the ball with 28 disposals for the winners, Aaron Black racking up 26 touches to go with a last quarter goal while Connor West, Laine Rasmussen and Zac Guadagnin were among the Falcons best to complement Keitel’s heroics up forward.
Lions skipper Leigh Kitchin battled gamely in midfield with 23 touches and 13 tackles, Kyal Horsley with 21 disposals in what looms as the final game of his outstanding career, Clark and Borchet their two multiple goalkickers on the day with two goals each.
East Perth started the day as outsiders to play finals football but gave themselves a chance with a crushing 71-point win over bottom placed Peel Thunder, resigning the Mandurah based club to a winless season.
The Royals burst out of the blocks with the only three goals of the first term to stamp their authority on the contest, dominant in the middle of the ground through former Thunder ruckman Scott Jones and a hard working midfield group led by vice-captain Jackson Ramsay.
Peel got on the board in a low scoring second quarter, stemming the bleeding to only trail by 22 points at half time.
With Subiaco struggling against West Perth the Royals began to make an imprint on the scoreboard with their percentage in the third term before late goals from Thunder youngsters Jack Sears and Tyrone Thorne meant it was a 25 point lead for East Perth at the last change.
With a finals spot on the line the Royals piled on the goals in the final term, kicking 7.4 to no score to usurp the Lions in the four, winning 15.11 (101) to 4.6 (30).
Ramsay rounded out his superb season with 35 disposals and 5 inside 50’s as he firms for a Sandover Medal tilt, Angus Scott pushing him for best on ground honours with 26 disposals and 3 goals, Aidan Lynch (26) and Nick Robertson (25) also prominent.
Michael Randall had 22 disposals in what was a terrific individual season for the 20-year-old Thunder midfielder, skipper Ben Howlett with 19 touches and Matt Bogensperger 18.
All eyes then focussed in on Lathlain Park for the Saturday twilight fixture between Perth and South Fremantle, a win all that was required for the Demons to break their finals drought.
It was an even opening term as gun forwards Mason Shaw (South Fremantle) and Logan McDonald (Perth) hit the scoreboard for their sides as both chased the individual accolade of the Bernie Naylor Medal.
Souths nudged ahead by a goal at the first change before Perth hit back in the second term, kicking three goals to two to tie the scores at the half as the sun set and the Lathlain Park lights took full effect.
The Bulldogs were more clinical than their nervous opponents in the third term, kicking 4.1 to 2.4 with Jack Richardson and McDonald the main offenders.
Half forwards Caleb Datson and Kade Stewart were dangerous for the red and whites, sharing four goals between them for the match as the ladder leaders had the answers when challenged.
Leading by 9 points at the last break the task was ahead of Earl Spalding’s men at the final change, knowing what was at stake in front of a crowd that was at fever pitch.
The groans grew louder with each behind that they kicked to start the final quarter, kicking 6 behinds in 13 minutes while keeping Souths scoreless.
The game needed a hero and Matt Rogers was the man for the Demons, getting on the end of a long kick from Mitchell Henderson to mark deep at right full forward.
He converted his set shot to put his team in front at the 15-minute mark, the Demons defence led by Michael Sinclair and Matthew Taylor setting up superbly to deny South Fremantle in the dying moments.
Brant College and Jack Richardson added behinds but the Bulldogs ran out of time to find a match winning goal, Rogers major the only goal of the last term but one that will be remembered for a long time to come.
The 8.18 (66) to 9.7 (61) triumph saw the Demons improve to a 5-3 record and close the door on both East Perth and Subiaco to secure fourth spot, setting up a 1st semi-final with West Perth next weekend.
Andrew Fisher had 26 disposals in a magnificent midfield performance, Brant College with 22 disposals in his best game for the season and Brady Grey with 18 important disposals of his own.
Rogers kicked 3 to be the leading goalkicker on the evening, McDonald with 1.3 to finish with 21 goals for the home and away season for the highly touted 18 year old forward.
Jacob Dragovich (27 disposals and 7 inside 50’s) was his side’s best while Stewart had 19 disposals to go with his two majors.
It capped off a sensational Saturday of football, a shortened season decided by delicate margins to determine positions in the top four.
South Fremantle will host Claremont in the 2nd semi-final at Fremantle Oval, the winner to receive a direct passage to the 2020 WAFL Grand Final while West Perth will take on Perth at Arena Joondalup in a winner takes all 1st semi-final.
The 2020 home and away season will conclude on Sunday afternoon with East Fremantle facing Swan Districts at East Fremantle Oval, in a game that has no consequence on the bearing of the finals make-up.
IMAGE: Perth FC Facebook.