WITH the race to the finals now entering its last month, the stakes rose in the WAFL in Round 17 with Subiaco all but securing the minor premiership while Claremont and South Fremantle continued their battle over for second and West Perth took another step towards September.
Round 17 in the WAFL got underway on Thursday night under lights at Lathlain's Mineral Resources Park and while Perth battled hard, they couldn’t quite match it with Subiaco with the Lions running 15.10 (100) to 6.6 (42) victors.
That puts Subiaco three games and percentage clear on top of the ladder with only three rounds of the season to go so a fifth consecutive minor premiership is now all but secure for the Lions.
The other four matches in Round 17 all took place on Saturday afternoon with West Perth managing to overcome East Fremantle 14.12 (96) to 10.14 (74) at Joondalup's HBF Arena with the Falcons not only consolidating a top five position, but also replacing Perth in fourth spot.
Swan Districts then snapped a seven-match losing streak to defeat the West Coast Eagles in a spirited display at Steel Blue Oval with Swans winning a nail-biter 12.8 (80) to 12.4 (76).
Swans' last win was also against the Eagles back in Round 7 and the loss for West Coast leaves them two games outside the top five with three matches in the season remaining.
East Perth threw the gauntlet down to South Fremantle with a sparkling run of five quick goals in the second quarter and they still led by nine points at half-time, but the Bulldogs kicked the only eight goals of the third term to end up winning 15.16 (106) to 11.7 (73) at Leederville Oval.
The win keeps South Fremantle in third position just a game behind the second placed Claremont while the defeat all but ends East Perth's finals hopes with the Royals three games and significant percentage outside the top five with just three games remaining.
It was a tight affair at Mandurah's David Grays Arena with plenty on the line for both Peel and Claremont. In the end, the Tigers prevailed 13.7 (85) to 11.17 (83) for them to retain second position on the ladder and to leave the Thunder two games outside of fifth spot with three rounds left.
ROUND 17 OPTUS WAFL PREMIERSHIP SEASON
PERTH 6.6 (42) lost to SUBIACO 15.10 (100)
Perth and Subiaco locked horns under lights at Lathlain's Mineral Resources Park on Thursday night with the Lions dominating from start to finish to all but secure yet another minor premiership.
It was a big game for both teams to open Round 17 with a win for Perth being a significant step towards locking in a finals berth while a victory would all but secure the minor premiership for Subiaco.
It was a big task for Perth to snap a losing run against Subiaco too and bouncing back from kicking just one goal against the Lions in a 69-point loss back in Round 9 at Leederville Oval.
However, it wasn’t to be with Subiaco dominating from start to finish including in the opening quarter with 10 scoring shots to three, and four goals to one to end up leading by 22 points at quarter-time.
It was more of the same in the second quarter with Subiaco kicking another four goals to two to head into the half-time break well in command to the tune of 33 points.
Things got decidedly scrappy in the third quarter with neither team rising to any great level with the natural dew from playing at night having impact of the quality of the contest.
In the end both teams kicked two goals apiece in a quarter to forget. Subiaco coach Beau Wardman was far from happy with what he was seeing from the Lions and he let them know that at three quarter-time in no uncertain terms.
His players responded by kicking five goals to one in the last quarter and Subiaco went on to win 15.10 (100) to 6.6 (42).
The win is a ninth straight this season for Subiaco and a seventh consecutive victory against Perth as they improve to a 14-1 record on the season. With only three rounds remaining, they are all but secure to remain in top spot.
Perth has now lost five of its past seven matches and has now dropped to fifth spot with games remaining against West Coast, East Fremantle and Peel Thunder.
Ben Sokol had a night out for Subiaco kicking seven goals from 21 possessions and 13 marks with Perth's decision to start debutant Connor Sing on him from the opening not quite paying dividends.
Ryan Vermeersch was playing his first league game for Subiaco since Round 18, 2017 and he made the most of his chance kicking three goals with Max Walters booting two majors as well from 21 possessions and nine tackles.
Lachlan Delahunty spent most of the evening in the ruck for Subiaco for 23 possessions and 15 hit outs while Kyal Horsley collected 21 disposals, Greg Clark 20 (10 tackles), Rhys Waters 18 and Michael Braut 17.
Aaron Heal returned for Subiaco to play his 99th WAFL game and he was the leader of the Lions' back-line performance with 16 possessions and seven marks.
Perth captain Corey Yeo battled hard all night with 25 possessions seven tackles and two goals while Matthew Rogers made sure he received plenty of love from the umpires while also kicking two goals to go with 18 disposals.
Matthew Taylor also gathered 26 touches for the Demons, Jacob Payne 25, Clint Jones 22, Brent Edmonds 22, Michael Sinclair 20, Brant Colledge 20, Cody Leggett 19, Marshall Jones 19 and Jacob Coniglio 19.
WEST PERTH 14.12 (96) defeated EAST FREMANTLE 10.14 (74)
West Perth needed a win at home against East Fremantle on Saturday but the Falcons had to come from behind to do so and they rose to that challenge for the eventual 22-point win at HBF Arena.
East Fremantle likely had too much to do to reach finals even with a win at HBF Arena on Saturday, but the Sharks still got out of the blocks quickly kicking four goals to one in the opening quarter against the Falcons.
It was an impressive start from East Fremantle to throw the challenge back on West Perth but by half-time, the Falcons had responded kicking four goals to two in the second term to end up trailing by just five points at the main break.
West Perth then continued that momentum in the third quarter holding East Fremantle to just four behinds and kicking three goals themselves to have assumed a 12-point three quarter-time advantage.
Things really opened up in the last quarter and that saw the Falcons kick six goals and the Sharks with West Perth ending up winning 14.12 (96) to 10.14 (74).
The win saw West Perth improve to an 8-7 record on the season and to leapfrog Perth into fourth position on the WAFL ladder with three rebounds remaining with games against Claremont, Subiaco and South Fremantle.
East Fremantle slips to a 4-11 record with the defeat to now be out of the finals hunt with games to finish against East Perth, Perth and the West Coast Eagles.
Andrew Strijk returned for West Perth and was once again a potent option in attack with three goals from seven scoring shots, 16 possessions and five marks. Michael Lourey, Rudy Riddoch and Tyler Keitel all kicked two goals each for the Falcons.
Captain Aaron Black racked up 31 possessions for West Perth, Trent Manzone 25, Shane Nelson 24, Blake Wilhelm 23, Aidan Lynch 22 (12 tackles), debutant Jaxon Prior 21, Nathan Alexandre 20 and Mitch Peirce 19.
Tom Bennett kicked three goals to go with 21 possessions for East Fremantle with Luke Strnadica also booting two majors.
Nick Kommer again showed his importance for East Fremantle with 25 possessions, 12 tackles and six marks with Cameron Eardley collecting 24 disposals, Blaine Boekhorst 22, Morgan Davies 22, Jarrad Jansen 21, Kyle Baskerville 20 and captain Jonathon Griffin 19 to go with 52 hit outs in the ruck.
SWAN DISTRICTS 12.8 (80) defeated WEST COAST EAGLES 12.4 (76)
Swan Districts has held off a fast-finishing West Coast to kick the last goal of the game thanks to Jesse Turner to snap a seven-game losing run at Steel Blue Oval on Saturday.
Swans looked on top for much of the afternoon but West Coast built some momentum to regain the lead midway through the last quarter. But Swans held firm with that last goal to Turner to win 12.8 (80) to 12.4 (76) and put a significant dent in the Eagles' finals hopes.
The Eagles made a strong start kicking the first two goals of the game inside the opening six minutes courtesy of Nick Reid and Jarrod Brander before Swans got on the board through Dylan Smith.
Jackson Beck then added another for Swans before Brendon Ah Chee responded for West Coast. But when Matt Riggio kicked truly just before quarter-time, the home side went into the break leading by two points.
But the Eagles regained the lead quickly in the second term with a goal to Chaz Flint before an immediate Swan Districts response by George Hampson.
Aidan Clarke then added another for Swans as did Josh Cipro before Clarke kicked a second, Brayden Noble another and Hampson his second and it was the black-and-whites on top by 26 points entering half-time.
It took only 11 minutes of the second half for West Coast to kick three goals from Nathan Vardy, Reid and Mark Hutchings to close to within eight points but Swans did steady with Riggio's second major of the day to still lead by 16 points at three quarter-time.
Tony Notte then put Swans 22 points up with a goal to start the last term but the Eagles were building momentum and finishing the better. They kicked four goals in the space of eight minutes to hit the lead but somehow Swans showed the poise and resilience that has eluded them most of 2019 so far.
In the end, Jesse Turner put them back in front at the 21-minute mark and Swans held on for the spirited four-point victory.
The win for Swan Districts snaps a seven-game losing streak since that last up win over West Coast in Round 7 and is the third victory of 2019 for the black-and-whites. They now have three games of the season to go against Subiaco, Peel Thunder and Claremont.
West Coast now remains two games outside the top five at 6-9 with three matches remaining against Perth, East Perth and East Fremantle.
George Hampson was once again tremendous for Swan Districts both when in the midfield and then when getting forward. He finished the afternoon with another 23 possessions and two goals.
Matt Riggio also got forward and took his chances kicking two goals while Aidan Clarke also booted two majors for the black-and-whites.
Warrick Wilson was back from injury for Swan Districts too playing his first game since Round 11 and he was superb with 25 possessions, four marks and two tackles.
Josh Cipro racked up another 22 possessions for Swans with Steven Payne gathering 19 disposals, Mitch Howlett 19, Brayden Hackett 18, Jesse Turner 17, Jackson Beck 16 and returning ruckman Nathan Blakely 14 to go with 17 hit outs.
Nick Reid continued to impress in attack for the Eagles kicking another three goals from 19 possessions and five marks with Chaz Flint also booting two majors.
Matthew Allen gathered 25 possessions, Hamish Brayshaw 23, Mark Hutchings 21, Brendon Ah Chee 18 and Xavier O'Neill 17.
EAST PERTH 11.7 (73) lost to SOUTH FREMANTLE 15.16 (106)
South Fremantle dominated East Perth in the third quarter with eight unanswered goals and that was enough for the Bulldogs to beat the Royals for a fifth straight time to the tune of 33 points.
After starting the game with a couple of behinds, it took Kade Stewart to dribble one through from 40m out to get the first goal of the game. Stewart then added two more for the opening term as well for the Bulldogs but Mitch Dobson kicked two of his own to keep East Perth in touch.
But it was only South Fremantle's inaccuracy with six behinds that cost them a bigger margin than the 12 points at quarter-time.
East Perth came out a different outfit in the second term with the first three goals in the opening 10 minutes through Shaquille McKenzie, Sharrod Wellingham and Ben McGuire.
South Fremantle got a couple of goals of their own courtesy of Andrew Haydon and Zac Strom, but the Royals still went into half-time leading by nine points after a late first half goal from ex-Tiger Eddie Simpson.
South Fremantle had its work cut out at half-time but they responded impressively starting with three goals inside eight minutes to Kyle Russell, Dylan Main and Jake Florenca.
Jacob Dragovich soon added another and the Bulldogs were up by 27 points. Then after another string of behinds, Caleb Datson kicked accurately before Haydon added his second and third of the game, and Datson his second with South Fremantle 45 points to the good at three quarter-time.
After a scoreless third quarter, East Perth did respond with a strong last quarter with four goals but South Fremantle also kicked a couple and remained in control to take away the 33-point victory.
The win is now a second consecutive victory for South Fremantle following a four-game losing run and then a seven-match winning streak prior to that.
The Bulldogs remain in third position at 10-5 but still remain a chance to snatch second with three games remaining against Peel Thunder, Claremont and West Perth.
While Bernie Naylor Medal leader Mason Shaw was kept goalless by East Perth, plenty of other South Fremantle players stepped up to ensure the Bulldogs kicked 15 goals and it was the smaller brigade doing the damage on this occasion.
Kade Stewart kicked all three of his goals in the first quarter for South Fremantle while Andrew Haydon also finished with three while Kyle Russell and Caleb Datson kicked two goals apiece.
Ruckman Brock Higgins had another strong showing for the Bulldogs opposed to Ajang Ajang, finishing with 16 possessions, four marks and 26 hit outs.
Then at ground level in the midfield, Haiden Schloithe was again superb especially when still playing through despite not being 100 per cent. He delivered another 34 possessions, seven marks, four tackles and three inside-50 entries.
Jacob Dragovich racked up another 31 disposals for the Bulldogs while Steve Verrier had 22 touches, Brandon Donaldson 18, Jake Florenca 17 and Dylan Main 17.
Then the South Fremantle defence was again tremendous once more led by Zac Dent up against his former team. He finished with 19 possessions and seven marks while Chad Pearson had 24 disposals and 12 marks. Blayne Wilson also had 18 disposals and eight marks.
Zac Strom celebrated his 100th WAFL game with 13 possessions, six marks and a goal as well.
Mitch Dobson continues to provide a strong presence in the forward-line for East Perth, kicking another three goals from 16 possessions and eight marks. Shaquille McKenzie spent the majority of the game in attack as well for 18 possessions, seven marks and two goals.
Jackson Ramsay was then tremendous in the midfield for East Perth with another 33 possessions while Stan Wright gathered 24 disposals, Kye Willcocks 24, Angus Scott 21 and Rohan Kerr 18.
East Perth's back-line had some standout performers too and none better than Asher Samelko. The usual forward started on Mason Shaw who went goalless and finished with 15 possessions, nine marks and a goal.
Jaxon Cahill also had 26 disposals, nine marks and five tackles while Nathan Blee returned to the team with 21 touches and four marks.
PEEL THUNDER 11.17 (83) lost to CLAREMONT 13.7 (85)
Little separated Peel and Claremont all afternoon at Mandurah's David Grays Arena with plenty at stake for both clubs but in the end the Tigers just did enough to prevail by two points and hold on to second spot.
Peel started strongly on home turf with a dominant opening quarter with eight scoring shots to three and four goals to two to end up leading by 15 points at quarter-time.
Claremont did steady things in the second term and managed to kick three goals to two from Peel to cut the Thunder's half-time advantage to 12 points.
The Tigers then took over further in the third quarter but that was largely due to the Thunder's inaccuracy. Claremont kicked six goals to two for the quarter but Peel also managed seven behinds for the term with the Tigers holding a seven-point lead by three quarter-time.
Claremont's lead grew to 14 points when Tom Lee kicked truly to start the last term but Peel then drew back level with goals to James Sturrock and Ryan Bennell.
Anthony Treacy and Brett Bewley then traded goals with scores still level with time running out before Claremont went in front with a rushed behind and then two points in front with a Bolton behind which saw them win 13.7 (85) to 11.17 (83).
The win keeps Claremont in second position on the ladder with a 11-4 record to remain a game and percentage ahead of the second placed South Fremantle. The Tigers finish the season with games against West Perth, South Fremantle and Swan Districts.
Peel is now two games outside of the top five at 6-9 with games remaining to close the home and away season against South Fremantle, Swan Districts and Perth.
Alec Waterman kicked another three goals from 18 possessions and six marks for Claremont with Tom Lee and Matthew Palfrey adding two goals apiece.
Jye Bolton continued his tremendous midfield form for Claremont with another 39 possessions while Kane Mitchell also had 36 disposals, eight tackles and a goal.
Bailey Rogers had 26 possessions off half-back with Ian Richardson working hard at half-forward for 20 disposals, eight inside 50s, seven marks and a goal.
Declan Mountford racked up 18 possessions, Jack Lewsey 18, Harry McCracken 18 and Ryan Lim 17 while Jeremy Goddard had 14 touches, four tackles and 52 hit outs in the ruck.
Hayden Ballantyne, Cam McCarthy and Ryan Bennell all booted two goals apiece with Peel.
Jackson Merrett finished with 26 possessions for the Thunder, Travis Colyer 26, Traye Bennell 22, Ben Howlett 21, James Sturrock 18 and Sam Sturt 17.