THE seasons of South Fremantle and Swan Districts go on the line Sunday in the first semi-final at Fremantle Community Bank Oval and while the Swans are going in on a high, the pressure is back on the highly-fancied Bulldogs.
South Fremantle is back at Fremantle Community Bank Oval for the second straight week to open the AHG WAFL Finals Series but this time it's a cut-throat first semi-final against a Swan Districts on a high after winning last Sunday.
The Bulldogs hosted last Saturday's qualifying final against Peel Thunder but went down by 18 points to need to beat Swans this Sunday to avoid what would be a disappointing straight sets finals exit given the season they have had.
South Fremantle entered the finals on a nine-game winning streak with a 16-4 record on the season to be clear in second position. That came on the back of a second-place finish also in 2016 where the Bulldogs beat West Perth in the qualifying final but lost to Subiaco and Peel the next two weeks.
The Bulldogs were in hot form coming into this finals series, but they started slowly last Saturday in the qualifying final against Peel and despite an impressive four-goal run in seven minutes during the last quarter, they never really got going.
The end result was an 18-point defeat for South Fremantle and now the Bulldogs must beat Swan Districts on Sunday to avoid their season being over.
Swan Districts, meanwhile, was struggling entering the finals coming in on a four-game losing slide and the last round loss to East Fremantle at home was particularly disappointing.
Swans had still done well enough throughout the season to finish in fourth place with a 10-10 earning them a home final against West Perth.
The black-and-whites played a strong and committed brand of football, and spurred on by over 5500 fans at Steel Blue Oval they went on to kick the last four goals of the game to win by 15 points.
Remarkably it is Swans first finals victory since the 2010 grand final and the first under coach Greg Harding in his final season at the helm.
Swans will now be looking to ensure Sunday isn’t his last game in charge nor the last game in the remarkable career of co-captain, premiership player and fairest and best winner Tallan Ames. He will play his 263rd game to go outright third on the all-time list with the club.
The two teams met twice during the home and away season with Swan Districts dominating South Fremantle in the Round 2 clash at Steel Blue Oval winning by 21 points.
It was then a fascinating game in Round 17 at Fremantle Community Bank Oval with Swans making a flying start to lead by 40 points midway through the second quarter. But from there the Bulldogs kicked 14 of the last 15 goals of the game to win by 40 points.
The fact that Swan Districts has had six of eight quarters this season where they have played as well as anyone this year against South Fremantle adds to the intrigue heading into the first semi-final on Sunday.
There is a definite clash of styles with the way the two teams play as well with South Fremantle at its best when getting out and running, moving the ball quickly and getting it into their star-studded forward-line.
But Swan Districts is a strong defensive team who likes to lockdown the opposition and then be efficient and take their chances in attack when they present.
Over the course of the season, South Fremantle has been by far the highest-scoring team averaging 112.9 points a game. Swans have struggled in attack scoring just 73.5 points. That means that if the game is free-flowing for any significant period on Sunday, it seriously suits the Bulldogs.
South Fremantle's defence has been superior to that of Swans too with the Bulldogs conceding 71.0 points a game and Swans giving up 83.1.
Coming off last week's qualifying final loss to Peel, South Fremantle has added Shaun Bewick, Jake Florenca, Brandon Donaldson and Chad Pearson to that group of 22 players.
But there are some proud players among that group and especially up forward considering Blaine Johnson (53 goals), Cory Dell'Olio (49), Ben Saunders (44) and Mason Shaw (41) combined for just three goals last week, they will be desperate to bounce back.
Swans will likely send the experienced Ryan Crowley to Tim Kelly again and that fascinating match up could go a long way to determining the result while Swan Districts' retiring champion will have one more battle with Bulldogs' triple Bernie Naylor Medallist Saunders.
Swan Districts delivered a tremendous performance last Sunday to beat South Fremantle but how their experienced players like Ryan Crowley and Tallan Ames come up with their bodies in their final seasons will be a deciding factor in them taking it up to South Fremantle.
From that team, Swans have added Chad Daniels, Brayden Hackett, Steven Wityk and Jackson Slater who will be able replacement if any senior bodies don't get up to play on Sunday.
But with the combination of youngsters Sam Taylor, Jacob Ness, Tobe Watson, Taryce Stewart and Levi Ridley standing up, and then Ames and Crowley in their final seasons passion is strong at Swans as they try to take it up to the more fancied Bulldogs at Fremantle Community Bank Oval on Sunday.
SOUTH FREMANTLE (16-4, 2nd) v SWAN DISTRICTS (10-10, 4th) – FREMANTLE COMMUNITY BANK OVAL, SUNDAY 2.15PM
Selected teams, live stats
Broadcast – 91.3 SportFM, KIX Digital, Footy Radio