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Wednesday WAFL: Ground zero for Fremantle rivarly

John Townsend

Mark Stewart and his East Fremantle colleagues have a dilemma as they attempt to break their long finals drought.

The most successful team in WAFL history given their 29 flags, the Sharks are in once-familiar territory as they sit on top of the ladder and contemplate their first finals campaign since 2014.

Another three wins might be enough to end the drought while five victories in the remaining 10 rounds could be enough to deliver at least one home final.

But where to play it?

East Fremantle are playing their home games at the WACA Ground while East Fremantle Oval is redeveloped but the cricket venue is not likely to be available for football in September when WA Cricket’s attention turns to the summer sport.

And WA Cricket’s extraordinary decision to charge Channel 7 a $17,000 production fee for any WAFL match broadcast from the ground is likely to prove a hurdle too high to overcome. Channel 7 will not show football from the WACA if the fee remains in place, providing the WA Football Commission with a delicate juggling act involving its most prominent media outlet and an organisation with whom it wants to have a good relationship given their mutual interests.

The WAFC operates from temporary premises at Tuart Hill and could eye the WACA Ground as it considers the prospect of a permanent home. That issue is much further into the future than this season’s finals.

Stewart, the East Fremantle president, confirmed on SportFM this week that the club’s Moss Street home would be unavailable from August when demolition works start to prepare for the new $35 million multi-sport facility at the site.

So that means East Fremantle Oval will be out of action while summer commitments and a short-sighted cash grab will put the WACA Ground off the roster.

That leaves just two options.

The Sharks have had initial talks with Perth about playing finals at Mineral Resources Park but any deal at the former Lathlain Park is a long way off given the contractual and political complications at the ground.

West Coast hold the head lease at Lathlain while the landlord is the Town of Victoria Park, whose relationship with Perth has deteriorated markedly since that club’s own redevelopment appeared to be going gangbusters two years ago.

The plan to build a new Demons facility at Lathlain has hit a brick wall and while the prospect of the first WAFL final being played at the ground in its 63-year history might provide a sweetener, it is unlikely to bridge the gap between Perth and council. That leaves just one option and even though it is the obvious one, it is also the most unpalatable outcome for the Sharks.

East Fremantle spent their first half-century at Fremantle Oval where they shared facilities and the ground with their most bitter rival. The rivalry with South Fremantle still exists which makes for a tantalising match-up between the two historic clubs should they meet in a derby final in Fremantle in September.

Neither team will admit it but their existence is enhanced by the bitterness of their hatred for the other.

Come on East Fremantle. You would hate to lose a final to South Fremantle at their home ground.

But how good would it be if you beat them at your old home ground?

Wednesday Hero.

Eighteen people have put their hands up to become WA Football Commissioners at this year’s annual elections. Seven of them have been short-listed as official candidates after the WAFC nominations committee decided that 11 of them were not worthy of further consideration. One of those discarded was a highly articulate 20-year-old WAFL reserves player whose strong and eloquent views on football were shaped by a birth date in the 21st century. The WAFC might know best but surely they might have benefitted by running such fresh blood through the entire election process?

IMAGE: WA Football

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