THE 2019 WAFL Finals Series got off to an enthralling start on the weekend with South Fremantle holding off Claremont to advance to the second semi-final while West Coast Eagles won a thriller to eliminate West Perth.
The opening weekend of the 2019 Optus WAFL Finals Series was split over Saturday and Sunday afternoon with Subiaco having earned the week off with the Lions finishing as minor premiers for the fifth consecutive season.
That left the second placed South Fremantle to host the third placed Claremont in the qualifying final at Fremantle Community Bank Oval on Saturday with a place against Subiaco the following Sunday up for grabs.
South Fremantle was on top most of the afternoon playing in its fourth consecutive qualifying final and the Bulldogs led by as much 39 points in the third quarter.
But Claremont came storming home with the last three goals of the game only for South Fremantle to hold on to win 11.5 (71) to 9.10 (64) which sees them advance to play Subiaco at Leederville Oval next Sunday with a spot in the Grand Final at stake.
Claremont would then await the result of Sunday's elimination final at Joondalup's HBF Arena to find out their opponents next Sunday.
With the weather turning the contest into quite the scrap, it was a game that ended up going right down to the wire and it was Brady Grey who would ultimately kick the winning goal for the West Coast Eagles who beat West Perth in their first ever WAFL final, 5.15 (45) to 6.6 (42).
The result means that the Eagles will now take on Claremont in next Sunday's first semi-final at Claremont's Revo Fitness Stadium while the season is over for West Perth.
Meanwhile in the first week of the Reserves finals, West Perth beat Subiaco 9.4 (58) to 5.9 (39) in the qualifying final at HBF Arena while in the elimination final on Saturday at Fremantle Community Bank Oval, East Fremantle beat East Perth 17.11 (113) to 10.8 (68).
That means that second week of the finals will see both matches take place this Sunday with Claremont facing West Perth in the second semi-final at Revo Fitness Stadium with a spot in the Grand Final at stake.
The first semi-final between Subiaco and East Fremantle will be played at Leederville Oval.
And in the colts, East Perth eliminated Swan Districts with an elimination final win 8.5 (53) to 4.5 (29) at Fremantle Community Bank Oval on Saturday morning. Then on Sunday morning at HBF Arena, Claremont beat West Perth 7.4 (46) to 5.11 (41) in the qualifying final.
That means that both finals this coming weekend will take place on Sunday morning with West Perth playing East Perth in the first semi-final, and Peel Thunder taking on Claremont in the second semi-final at Claremont Revo Fitness Stadium.
OPTUS WAFL FINALS SERIES
SOUTH FREMANTLE 11.5 (71) defeated CLAREMONT 9.10 (64)
South Fremantle and Claremont did battle for a spot in the second semi-final against Subiaco and for the second straight week the Bulldogs build up a match-winning lead before then holding on in a frantic finish.
The Bulldogs had finished in second position at the end of the home and away season for the fourth consecutive season meaning they earned the hosting rights for a qualifying final for the fourth straight year too.
That meant South Fremantle hosted Claremont at Fremantle Community Bank Oval on Saturday afternoon after the two teams had done battle with little separating them for second position most of the 2019 season.
Claremont made a bright start with the first three scoring shots of the qualifying final and that saw Haydn Busher kick the opening goal as he was a surprise starter in the forward-line in the absence of Tom Lee leaving Dylan Smallwood to line-up on Mason Shaw at full-back.
It was Shaw who would kick South Fremantle's first goal of the game shortly after and then Josh Collard added another in quick succession kicking a beauty from outside 50 after being rewarded for a strong tackle.
Then leading into quarter-time, South Fremantle kicked three goals in a four-minute burst to break the game open with Shaw booting his second and then Dylan Main and Matthew Ward also kicking truly.
That saw the Bulldogs lead by 21 points at quarter-time but Claremont made the perfect start to the second term with a quick goal to Jack Bradshaw.
They might have been 10 minutes apart, but South Fremantle would kick the only other two goals of the second quarter courtesy of Haiden Schloithe and Kade Stewart to see the Bulldogs remain in control with the 27-point half-time advantage.
South Fremantle then pulled away further to start the second half with Shaun Bewick kicking an impressive running goal and then when Kade Stewart nailed another, the lead was out to a game-high 39-point advantage.
Claremont did get a goal back thanks to Declan Mountford and then another from the left boot of Matthew Palfrey, but South Fremantle steadied just before three quarter-time thanks to Brandon Donaldson to hold a 25-point edge still despite Anton Hamp keeping Claremont just within touch.
Bradshaw and Collard traded goals for either team to start the fourth quarter and South Fremantle remained in control with the 25-point lead until Claremont started to build some momentum.
Tom Ledger threw the ball on his boot and found the goals at the 14-minute mark to make it a 19-point game.
Ian Richardson then kicked two goals in three minutes and all of a sudden the Tigers were within seven points, but ultimately ran out of time as South Fremantle held on to win 11.5 (71) to 9.10 (64).
South Fremantle now advances to this Sunday's second semi-final against Subiaco at Leederville Oval as the Bulldogs attempt to win their way into a first Grand Final appearance since 2009.
Claremont earned the double chance and the Tigers will now host the West Coast Eagles this Sunday in a cut-throat first semi-final at Claremont's Revo Fitness Stadium.
Mason Shaw, Josh Collard and Kade Stewart all stepped up to kick two important goals apiece for South Fremantle.
Haiden Schloithe continued his brilliant form for South Fremantle to finish with another 22 disposals, seven tackles, five inside-50 entries and a goal.
Captain Dylan Main also ended up with 19 disposals, Jake Florenca 17 (nine tackles), Matthew Ward 17 (eight tackles), Jacob Dragovich 15 and Blayne Wilson 15. Steve Verrier also finished with 12 touches and 15 tackles.
Chad Pearson was again outstanding down back as well with 21 possessions and four marks.
Brock Higgins also had a fascinating battle in the ruck Jeremy Goddard and finished with eight touches and 46 hit outs.
Ian Richardson and Jack Bradshaw kicked two goals apiece for a Claremont team who decided to go in without leading goalkicker Tom Lee and instead tried usual defenders Haydn Busher and Anton Hamp in attack, who did kick a goal apiece.
Kane Mitchell produced another game made up of 32 possessions, six tackles and five inside-50 entries for Claremont with Jye Bolton also amassing 29 disposals and eight tackles.
Declan Mountford finished with 22 possessions, Bailey Rogers 21, Lachlan Martinis 19 and Tom Ledger 17.
WEST COAST EAGLES 5.15 (45) defeated WEST PERTH 6.6 (42)
The weather closed in on Joondalup to lessen the attacking flair of the two teams but it sure helped to create a tight and fierce contest all afternoon with the West Coast Eagles win over West Perth only decided with one of the last kicks of the game.
Despite the Eagles qualifying for the finals in their inaugural WAFL season in fourth place, it was the Falcons who earned home ground rights for the elimination final with both teams 2019 campaigns needing a win on Sunday afternoon to continue.
With the win and ultimately rain coming across HBF Arena, goals certainly came tough to come by for the afternoon and it became quite the scrappy albeit intense and physical contest.
With only 11 goals kicked for the game, it was only fitting that the last one of the afternoon proved the match-winner and that was kicked by Brady Grey to deliver the 5.15 (45) to 6.6 (42) victory to the Eagles in their first ever WAFL final.
West Perth did manage the first goal of the game courtesy of Rudy Riddoch but West Coast soon responded thanks to Luke Foley. Brady Grey then added another but Michael Lourey responded just before quarter-time and West Perth were only down by two points.
The Eagles then scored a string of four behinds to start the second term but eventually got a goal through Fraser McInnes. They finished the first half with two more behinds and after keeping West Perth scoreless for the quarter, went into half-time leading by 14 points.
The Eagles started the second half with a couple more behinds but then West Perth got back within 10 points with a goal to Keegan Knott.
The Eagles responded with one through Andrew Fisher before the Falcons closed the third term with three behinds to close the game at the last change to 13 points.
Goals for West Perth to Ben Delaporte and Liam Tedesco got the home team within a goal and then when Knott kicked truly at the 23-minute mark, the Falcons were in front.
West Perth had a golden chance to seal the game too with Connor West running onto the ball with an open goal square ahead. He soccered it off the ground and it hit the post.
But from the subsequent kick-in, the Eagles went forward Bailey Williams marked strongly at half-forward. Grey was then wide open running inside-50 and he kicked truly. Then in a frantic last minute, West Coast held on and scored the three-point win.
While West Coast did have 20 scoring shots to just 12 from West Perth, the Falcons actually had more of the ball than the Eagles while taking more marks and laying more tackles.
Despite all that West Coast were more direct going inside-50 a remarkable 32 more times to have the eight extra scoring shots and ultimately win the game.
Not only did Brady Grey kick the game's winning goal, but the former Fremantle AFL and Peel WAFL premiership player was the Eagles' only multiple goal scorer with two.
Hamish Brayshaw finished with 29 possessions for the Eagles, Brayden Ainsworth 26, Xavier O'Neill 24, Kurt Mutimer 19, Josh Smith 16 and captain Fraser McInnes 15.
Keegan Brooksby (16 possessions, eight tackles, 23 hit outs) and Bailey Williams (15 disposals, five tackles, 21 hit outs) did well in the ruck too for the Eagles.
Keegan Knott was West Perth's only multiple goal scorer with two while Andrew Strijk couldn’t hit the scoreboard in the 245th and final game of his remarkable career despite working hard for 12 possessions, six inside 50s and four marks.
Shane Nelson finished with 26 possessions for the Falcons, Blake Wilhelm 26, Tyler Keitel 25, Trent Manzone 23, Mitch Peirce 21 (11 tackles), Tyson Moulton 19, Aaron Black 17 and Connor West 17.