THE third last round of the 2019 WAFL season saw Subiaco guarantee top spot, South Fremantle and Claremont confirm their battle over second, West Perth lock in a finals place and the battle over fifth heating up between Perth, West Coast and Peel Thunder.
It turned out to be a fascinating Round 18 of WAFL action with all five matches taking place on Saturday afternoon and things are starting to take shape ahead of the finals, but there still remains seven teams in contention to take part in September action.
It was top against bottom at Leederville Oval and Subiaco put Swan Districts to the sword early and ended up cruising to the 15.16 (106) to 7.2 (44) victory to celebrate the 100th games of Aaron Heal and Lachlan Delahunty.
What the result did was lock in Subiaco for a fifth consecutive minor premiership while Swans took another step towards the wooden spoon with them now needing to win their two remaining matches to be any chance of avoiding that fate.
South Fremantle returned to second position by making it three consecutive wins beating Peel Thunder 11.16 (82) to 6.6 (42) at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.
The win took the Bulldogs less one per cent ahead of Claremont on the ladder in second position but the two teams now do battle back at the port this Saturday with that result likely to determine who finishes second and earns home ground advantage against the other in the qualifying final.
Claremont missed the chance to remain a game clear of South Fremantle at Claremont Oval with West Perth proving strong and winning 16.8 (104) to 8.12 (60).
Not only did the loss for the Tigers knock them out of second position but the win for the Falcons locks in them to play finals again in 2019 and if they go on to win their last two matches against Subiaco and South Fremantle they could even move up into third position too depending on other results.
The only game on Saturday in Round 18 that didn’t have any finals implications took place at East Fremantle's New Choice Homes Park and it was a tight affair between East Fremantle and East Perth with the Sharks ending up beating the Royals 12.6 (78) to 11.4 (70) to leave both on 5-11 records.
The game with plenty at stake took place between the co-tenants of Lathlain's Mineral Resources Park and it only served to heat up the race for fifth position further with the West Coast Eagles beating Perth 9.17 (71) to 7.10 (52).
Perth does remain in fifth position but is now only one game ahead of the Eagles and two games ahead of the Thunder, but with an inferior percentage to both.
The Demons now finish the season against East Fremantle and Peel with wins in both to guarantee a first finals appearance since 1997.
However, losing either of those games leaves the door open for the Eagles who finish against East Perth and East Fremantle.
Meanwhile, two Demons losses could keep Peel in the hunt depending on what West Coast does with the Thunder needing to beat both Swan Districts and Perth to be any chance of returning to the finals.
ROUND 18 OPTUS WAFL PREMIERSHIP SEASON
CLAREMONT 8.12 (60) lost to WEST PERTH 16.8 (104)
West Perth produced perhaps its best performance of the WAFL season to date to beat Claremont by 44 points at Claremont Oval on Saturday to lock away yet another finals appearance for the Falcons.
It was always going to be a fascinating match up with Claremont trying to maintain its advantage in second position and West Perth attempting to secure a finals berth.
Claremont came out and started fire on home turf to open the contest with the opening three goals courtesy of Tom Lee, Jack Bradshaw and Alec Waterman.
West Perth didn’t score a behind until the 20-minute mark and then leading into quarter-time the Falcons kicked goals through Michael Lourey, Andrew Strijk and Tyler Keitel to leave scores all tied up by quarter-time.
It remained a tight affair throughout the second quarter with both teams kicking three goals apiece and the Tigers went into half-time leading by three points and there were no signs of what was to come.
It actually appeared it would be Claremont that would pull away to start the second half with the Tigers kicking goals through Richardson, Matthew Palfrey and Kane Mitchell to see them open up an 18-point advantage at the 18-minute mark.
But from there it would be all West Perth and Claremont wouldn’t kick another goal for the game. The Falcons finished the third quarter with goals to Liam Tedesco, two to Corey Chalmers, and Connor West to lead by 13 points at three quarter-time.
West Perth then kicked five goals to just two behinds in the last quarter and that saw the Falcons end up winning 16.8 (104) to 8.12 (60).
The win improves West Perth to a 9-7 record to be a game and significant percentage now clear of the fifth placed Perth to be guaranteed of playing finals in 2019. The Falcons now finish the season away to Subiaco and at home to South Fremantle.
Claremont slips to third spot with the loss at 11-5 but could return to second with a win against South Fremantle this Saturday before finishing the home and away season against Swan Districts.
Andrew Strijk kicked four goals for West Perth from 10 kicks and six marks while Corey Chalmers booted three goals to go with 24 disposals and eight marks.
West Perth's two midfield stalwarts with 346 games between team Shane Nelson and Aaron Black led from the front once more for the Falcons. Nelson had 35 possessions, 10 tackles, five marks and a goal, and Black 35 disposals, nine tackles, six marks and a goal.
Ian Richardson and Jack Bradshaw kicked two goals apiece for Claremont.
Kane Mitchell continued his brilliant form for Claremont with 36 possessions, six tackles and a goal to go with Declan Mountford gathering 26 disposals, Bailey Rogers 22, Tyron Smallwood 21, Ryan Lim 20 and the returning Tom Ledger 18.
PERTH 7.10 (52) lost to WEST COAST EAGLES 9.17 (71)
Perth and the West Coast Eagles began their battle over the fifth and last finals position on Saturday with the co-tenants battling it out at Lathlain's Mineral Resources Park and it was the Eagles who prevailed by 19 points.
It always had the potential of being a season-defining clash on Saturday afternoon and in the end it's made for quite the nerve-racking final two weeks of the home and away season for Demons fans to see if their finals drought comes to an end.
The Eagles came out on fire from the opening of the contest kicking five goals to two in the first quarter and that saw them leading the Demons by 20 points at quarter-time.
Even though Perth did kick the only two goals of the second quarter, West Coast had its chances but only managed six behinds even though the Eagles still ended up heading into half-time leading the Demons by 12 points.
The Eagles then kicked away further in the third term with two goals to one to remain in control of the contest to the tune of 19 points by the last change.
Perth fought hard in the last quarter but couldn’t close the gap with West Coast going on to win 9.17 (71) to 7.10 (52).
The win really tightens up the race for fifth position with two rounds of the season remaining. West Coast improved to a 7-9 record with the win while Perth slips to 8-8 and it's the Eagles with a superior percentage.
Perth finishes the season at home to East Fremantle and away to Peel Thunder while the Eagles finish against East Perth and East Fremantle.
Nathan Vardy rediscovered some form for the Eagles with the AFL premiership winning big man kicking three goals to go with 10 possessions, four marks and 14 hit outs.
Keegan Brooksby also kicked three goals from 12 disposals, six marks and 16 hit outs to ensure the Eagles' big men dominated the Demons.
Tom Cole put his hand up for a return to the AFL line-up for West Coast with 24 possessions in defence while Josh Rotham was alongside him with 24 disposals and eight marks.
Further up the field, Hamish Brayshaw collected 22 possessions for the Eagles, Kurt Mutimer 21, Brendon Ah Chee 21, Brayden Ainsworth 18 and Brady Grey 17.
Perth captain Corey Yeo racked up 27 possessions while Brant College also picked up 26 disposals, Clint Jones 25, Cody Ninyette 20, Michael Sinclair 19 and Matthew Taylor 18.
SOUTH FREMANTLE 11.16 (82) defeated PEEL THUNDER 6.6 (42)
South Fremantle continued its improved form with a third straight victory on Saturday kicking the game's first six goals on the way to a 40-point victory against Peel Thunder at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.
It has been a season of streaks so far for South Fremantle with the Bulldogs going on a seven-game winning streak before then losing four matches in-a-row and now following Saturday's win over Peel, they've again put together three consecutive victories.
It took less than four minutes for South Fremantle to kick the first goal of the game courtesy of Caleb Datson.
Captain Dylan Main then added another for the Bulldogs and then Bernie Naylor Medal leader Mason Shaw added two more before quarter-time leaving the home team holding a 25-point advantage having held the Thunder to the one behind in the first term.
Shaw then kicked his third goal to open the second term and when Shaun Bewick kicked truly at the 11-minute mark, the Bulldogs had the first six goals of the contest to be leading by 37 points.
Peel eventually got its first goal of the game at the 13-minute mark thanks to Lachlan Cullen but that would be the Thunder's only major of the opening half.
South Fremantle finished the half with a second goal to Main and another to Jake Florenca to see them in control by 46 points at the major break.
The second half never reached any great heights from either side but South Fremantle's lead did grow to as much as 58 points when Zac Strom kicked truly at the 28-minute mark of the third term.
Peel did manage the last two goals of the third term courtesy of Gerald Ugle and then the Thunder booted the only goal of the final quarter but South Fremantle still cruised to the 11.16 (82) to 6.6 (42) victory.
The win made it three consecutive victories for South Fremantle and the Bulldogs returned to second position on the ladder to be just a slight percentage ahead of Claremont.
South Fremantle now takes on Claremont this Saturday at Fremantle Community Bank Oval before finishing the season against West Perth at HBF Arena.
Peel remains in seventh position with the loss with a 6-10 record but the Thunder remain an outside chance of still playing finals in 2019. The Thunder will need to win their last two matches against Swan Districts and Perth, and then hope some other results go their way.
Mason Shaw ended up kicking another three goals for South Fremantle with captain Dylan Main adding two to go with 19 possessions, six marks and six tackles.
Haiden Schloithe continued his blistering form for South Fremantle with another 38 possessions, seven inside 50s, five marks and five tackles with the Bulldogs' midfielders having to step up in the absence of Jacob Dragovich.
Steve Verrier finished with another 28 disposals and 10 tackles for the Bulldogs with Jake Florenca collecting 24 touches, Kyle Russell 24, Shaun Bewick 19, Brandon Donaldson 18 and Kade Stewart 17 to go with nine tackles.
Brock Higgins had another 11 touches and 48 hit outs in the ruck while down back, Chad Pearson had another 24 possessions and six marks for South Fremantle, Zac Dent 23 disposals, five marks and five tackles, and Noah Strom 17 possessions and seven marks.
Gerald Ugle kicked three goals in the third quarter from three kicks for Peel while Lachlan Cullen also booted two majors.
Peel captain Ben Howlett fought valiantly with 22 possessions and 11 tackles while Keegan Power gathered 22 disposals, Jackson Merrett 20, Brayden Lawler 20, Traye Bennell 18 and Tom North 17.
Billy Chambers worked hard in the ruck on debut for the Thunder too with 10 possessions, five tackles and 26 hit outs.
SUBIACO 15.16 (106) defeated SWAN DISTRICTS 7.2 (44)
Subiaco put together a dominant 10-goal to one first half to set up an eventual 62-point victory over Swan Districts at Leederville on Saturday.
It was always going to be a potential mismatch with the top placed Subiaco hosting the wooden spoon bound Swan Districts, and that's how the game panned out in the first half as Subiaco set up the eventual 15.16 (106) to 7.2 (44) victory.
Subiaco dominated from the opening of the contest even if their first four scoring shots were behinds. Eventually they found the target with Ryan Borchet and Rhys Waters kicking goals before Swans opened their account with a Tony Notte behind.
Bailey Matera then kicked another goal for the Lions before Swans kicked a goal just before three quarter-time thanks to Aidan Clarke.
The Lions then really dominated the second quarter with Swans not managing a single score. Subiaco would go on to kick seven goals with Ben Sokol booting four of them with Ryan Vermeersch adding two and Harry Marsh the other to see the Lions up by 63 points at the main break.
Swan Districts, though, fought hard in the second half and that included third quarter goals to Nathan Ireland, Josh Cipro and Dylan Smith even though Borchet and Waters finished the term with goals for the Lions to keep the margin at 59 points.
Sokol then kicked his sixth goal to open the last quarter and Max Walters also added another to make it 71 points. But goals for Swans to Nathan Ireland and Dylan Smith means the black-and-whites remained competitive.
Mitch Howlett kicked the last goal of the game as well for Swans to cut Subiaco's winning margin to 62 points.
The win secures a fifth consecutive minor premiership for Subiaco with the Lions sitting four games and massive percentage clear on top of the ladder with two games of the season remaining against West Perth East Perth.
Swan Districts now looks locked into bottom position unless they win their last two matches against Peel Thunder and Claremont while hoping one of East Fremantle or East Perth lose their last two games.
On the back of kicking seven goals last Thursday night against Perth, Ben Sokol kicked six more goals for Subiaco from 22 possessions and 12 marks.
Rhys Waters also kicked two goals from 22 disposals, seven tackles and six marks while Ryan Borchet booted another two majors.
Subiaco captain Leigh Kitchin was brilliant with 33 possessions and 10 inside-50 entries while Kyal Horsley wasn’t far behind with 32 disposals, 11 tackles and eight inside 50s.
Lachlan Delahunty celebrated his 100th game with another 30 possessions and 21 hit outs while Greg Clark gathered 23 disposals, Tom Edwards-Baldwin 23, Justin Joyce 20, Bailey Matera 20 and Travis Cleggett 19.
Dylan Smith and Nathan Ireland kicked two goals apiece for Swan Districts with both showing encouraging signs for the future of what they are capable of.
George Hampson continued to fight hard against the odds for Swans to finish the afternoon with another 28 possessions, four marks and two tackles.
Warrick Wilson maintained his good form too with 25 possessions while Jesse Turner picked up 24 disposals, Matt Riggio 23, Jackson Beck 20, Josh Cipro 19, Aidan Clarke 18, Tony Notte 17 and Mitch Howlett 17.
Nathan Blakely also found some good touch in the ruck again with 17 possessions, six marks, three tackles and 41 hit outs.
EAST FREMANTLE 12.6 (78) defeated EAST PERTH 11.4 (70)
It might have been the only game of Round 18 that didn’t have any finals implications, but East Fremantle and East Perth still put on a good show with the Sharks ending up winning by eight points on home turf.
In the end, it was four goals to two in the third quarter that set up the win for East Fremantle and the Sharks ended up beating the Royals 12.6 (78) to 11.4 (70) at East Fremantle's New Choice Homes Park.
East Perth came out strongly kicking four goals to three from East Fremantle in the first quarter which saw the Royals narrowly lead by four points by quarter-time.
East Fremantle then kicked two goals to one in the second term and that meant the Sharks would lead narrowly by two points at three quarter-time.
The Sharks then put their foot on the gas in the third term by kicking four goals to two and that saw them open up match-leading advantage by 16 points at the final change.
East Perth kicked four goals to three from East Fremantle in the final quarter but the Sharks held on for the eight-point victory.
The result means that both teams sit on 5-11 records to occupy eight and ninth positions while the Sharks are ahead courtesy of less than one per cent.
East Fremantle now finishes the season against Perth and West Coast while East Perth ends against the Eagles and Subiaco.
Blaine Boekhorst, Luke Strnadica, Zach Jackson, Milan Murdock and Tom Monaghan all kicked two goals apiece for East Fremantle.
Tom Bennett racked up 32 possessions for the Sharks, Boekhorst 29, Cameron Eardley 28, Jarrad Jansen 23 (14 tackles), Matthew Jupp 17 and Jeremy Sharp 17.
Jonathon Griffin continued his dominant form in the ruck too with another 19 possessions, four tackles and 40 hit outs.
Mitch Dobson, Eddie Simpson and Sharrod Wellingham kicked two goals each for East Perth.
Jackson Ramsay was again tremendous for the Royals with 41 possessions while Angus Scott collected 31 disposals, Rohan Kerr 27, Shaquille McKenzie 22, Stan Wright 21, Nathan Blee 21, Jaxon Cahill 21, Kye Willcocks 21 and Ben Miller 20.
Ajang Ajang had a good battle in the ruck with Griffin finishing with 16 possessions, 39 hit outs and a goal.