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Wednesday WAFL: In adversity comes opportunity - and sometimes victory

John Townsend

Jaxon Crabb, the Sandover medallist and former Claremont captain, said it was the club’s best win since the 2012 grand final.

Other, older and presumably wise Tigers said it was the best victory since the start of the AFL era in 1987.

Now THAT is a big call given that 35-year period includes seven league premierships, one by two points, eight other grand final appearances and plenty of stirring moments.

Whether the best win of the past decade or three, Claremont’s remarkable victory over reigning premiers Subiaco on Saturday surely belonged in the catalogue of Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

It is a truism of football and life that in adversity comes opportunity.

Down nearly their entire starting line-up, with nine debutants needing to be called up from the reserves and another seven players with single-figure games records, the Tigers underlined that nothing beats a chance at the right time when it comes to making a difference.

Speed too.

The addition of several speedsters, including the blistering Patrick Kitchener from Cable Beach, exposed a Subiaco team that is still battling its own Covid and injury dramas and bore little resemblance to the juggernaut of recent seasons.

The pandemic has hit some clubs hard, with the longer-term impact evident with some players who are still unable to find their customary verve weeks after copping a Covid dose.

But youth, speed and vitality are key ingredients in winning against the odds.

Just as West Coast stunned Collingwood a few weeks ago with a team of youngsters unburdened by expectations, only to revert to their turgid style when the seniors returned, Claremont’s success was driven by the freedom that comes without concern for the result.

Coach Ashley Prescott’s addresses at the breaks were simple: he urged his players to just do the jobs identified for them and to maintain their effort. There was little else, certainly no complicated game plan nor intricate instructions. Maybe there is a lesson in that as well?

Kitchener’s pace was a stand-out feature, Kieran Gowdie had 33 hit-outs, Olly Sheldrick and Ben Clarke laid 13 tackles between them, Talon Delacey kicked a couple of important goals, Zac Mainwaring buzzed around, Lawrence Evans had several decent moments, Ben Harding found the footy 15 times and Marc Boyatzis got enough of it to be happy with his work.

Some of those players will return to the reserves this week; some may never get another chance at league level.

It is quite possible that Saturday afternoon might be the greatest moment in the sporting lives of some of those new Claremont players and they will never approach its like again.

Bringing in nine debutants is hardly the formula for sustained success, with Claremont needing to find another gear this week when they confront ladder-leading South Fremantle, but their remarkable win over Subiaco was a clear reminder that little else beats opportunity when times are at their toughest.

Wednesday hero(es): The player swap between Mitch Dobson and Tom Medhat might not have received any great publicity during pre-season but, based on two weeks’ evidence, it has been a win-win for both players and their clubs. Denied chances at West Perth by the presence of Tyler Keitel, Medhat has become an important target in the East Perth forward line. And after several seasons in which he showed glimpses but rarely consistent proof of his mercurial talents, former Royal Dobson has relished the change of scenery at Joondalup. Both forwards played more reserves than league games at their former clubs but appear poised to become regular senior players this season.


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