ROUND 4 in the Optus WAFL Premiership Season saw teams make some statements with the top four breaking away from the pack but there were no shortage of standout individual performers either.
Round 4 in the 2020 WAFL season saw West Perth beat East Perth 12.9 (81) to 8.1 (49), Perth overcome East Fremantle 10.4 (64) to 8.10 (58), Claremont defeat Peel Thunder 8.10 (58) to 5.5 (35), and then South Fremantle beat Subiaco 15.7 (97) to 7.5 (47).
Those results leave South Fremantle (4-0) clear on top of the ladder and then West Perth (3-1), Claremont (3-1) and Perth (3-0) rounding out the top four after their victories.
East Perth (1-2) and Subiaco (1-2) are just outside followed by East Fremantle (1-3), Swan Districts (0-3) and Peel Thunder (0-4).
There were a host of standout performers too right across the board in the four matches including big ball-winning performances from superstar midfielders Jye Bolton, Kane Mitchell, Shane Nelson, Jackson Ramsay and Aaron Black, and the emerging Jake Florenca and Jordan Snadden.
Down back, Noah Strom, Declan Hardisty and Zac Guadagnin were among those to be outstanding defensively while Michael Sinclair, Angus Litherland and Josh Bootsma were others to impress.
Michael Lourey had a huge first half kicking four goals for West Perth while Haiden Schloithe was best afield for South Fremantle and he got good support including from small forward Brandon Donaldson.
Brayden Lawler fought valiantly for Peel in his 100th WAFL appearance and despite ending up suspended from the game, Matthew Rogers was tremendous for Perth as was his new Demons teammate Kieran Delahunty.
Wherever he played on the day, Zac Strom was tremendous too for South Fremantle and it was a weekend where once again it was far from an easy task for us to come up with the WAFL Team of the Round.
PLAYER OF THE ROUND
It would have been perfectly reasonable for South Fremantle players who played in last year's Grand Final to be equally motivated against Subiaco on Saturday yet also cautious and wary of what the Lions are capable of.
No one would have been feeling that more than key defender Noah Strom who was given the job on Ben Sokol in Saturday's Grand Final rematch at Leederville Oval.
Sokol is a former South Fremantle teammate of Strom's who went to Subiaco for greater opportunities, and by the end of last year's Grand Final where he kicked six goals, he was a dual premiership player, Bernie Naylor Medallist and Simpson Medal winner.
He had enjoyed playing his former team including a haul of seven back in 2016, five in 2018 and then the six in last year's 96-point Grand Final win.
So the job was ahead of Strom on Saturday and in all reality with the changes at Subiaco since last year's Grand Final, were the Lions to win again over the Bulldogs they would need Sokol to likely have a day out.
But Strom would have none of it. He delivered another outstanding defensive performance to end up holding Sokol to one goal for the day from 10 kicks and five marks while having 12 possessions himself.
It was an impressive performance from the 24-year-old who had to patiently wait for his chance at league level. Despite splitting his time between playing in the ruck, forward and in the back-line during his reserves career, it wasn’t until Round 1, 2018 when he made his debut.
Ironically it was as a late replacement for his ill older brother Zac that saw Noah get his chance. But he came in for that game, slotted into a role as a key defender and has not missed a game since, and has cemented himself as one of the best backmen in the WAFL competition now over 47 appearances.
Players of the Round
Round 1 – Chris Masten (Perth)
Round 2 – Logan McDonald (Perth)
Round 3 – Tyler Keitel (West Perth)
Round 4 – Noah Strom (South Fremantle)
BACK POCKET – ZAC GUADAGNIN (West Perth)
Has now played 38 games and has settled into the West Perth back-line and turned himself into one of the best small or mid-size defenders in the competition. Did the job on dangerous East Perth forward Mitch Dobson in Saturday's big derby win while having nine disposals and two marks himself.
BACK POCKET – ANGUS LITHERLAND (Subiaco)
With no Aaron Heal or Jordan Lockyer down back, he became the senior man in terms of the talls even if he's not quite usually a key position sized player. He did what he could to try and lift Subiaco despite the eventual loss to South Fremantle. Played well on Jimmy Miller while finishing with 14 possessions and four tackles.
HALF-BACK FLANK – MICHAEL SINCLAIR (Perth)
He is the Perth captain for the rest of the season following the knee reconstruction undergone by Corey Yeo, and with two fairest and bests and 117 games under his belt, he is handling the role impressively. Had a big say in the win over East Fremantle finishing up with 19 disposals, six tackles, five marks and two inside-50 entries.
CENTRE HALF-BACK – DECLAN HARDISTY (Claremont)
He might have flown right under the radar for much of his 42-game league career with Claremont to date, but quietly he has made himself one of the most reliable defenders in the WAFL and that continued on Saturday in the Tigers' win against the Thunder on home soil. As well as the job he did defensively, also had five disposals, two marks and two tackles.
HALF-BACK FLANK – JOSH BOOTSMA (Peel Thunder)
Was one of the players Peel quickly put a call into when they had to pull together a playing squad for 2020 once the news fell that they would have no access to Fremantle-listed players in 2020. Clearly he is too good to not be playing in the WAFL anyway and the big-kicking defender has been important over the opening month and delivered another 13 possessions and five marks.
WING – TRENT MANZONE (West Perth)
The prolific wingman has started the 2020 WAFL season in fine form and that continued on Saturday in the big win against East Perth. Is now an experienced and consistent campaigner with 127 games under his belt, and was superb once more finishing with 25 possessions, five tackles and three entries inside the forward 50.
CENTRE – JYE BOLTON (Claremont)
He has two Sandover and Simpson Medals to his credit already since joining Claremont, and the one thing that is driving him on more than anything is that elusive premiership, and as a result he is becoming a better team player and leader all the time. Was best afield in Saturday's win against Peel with 34 possessions, six marks and four inside-50 entries.
WING – KANE MITCHELL (Claremont)
The Sandover Medal winner is the standalone Claremont captain for the first time in 2020 and is thriving on that responsibility splitting his time between playing as an inside and outside midfielder. Had a big day in the win against the Thunder with 23 possessions, 10 tackles and two goals.
HALF-FORWARD FLANK – MATTHEW ROGERS (Perth)
The powerful half-forward has been a key cog in Perth's improvement since returning to the Demons from Swan Districts over the past 18 months, and he had a strong showing on Saturday against East Fremantle. Despite the disappointment in copping a three-game suspension in the days since, he was impressive with 13 touches, four marks, for inside 50s and two goals on his prolific left boot.
CENTRE HALF-FORWARD – KIERAN DELAHUNTY (Perth)
The cousin of Subiaco superstar Lachlan, he has come west and joined Perth for 2020 and is playing a similar role splitting his time between the forward-line and the ruck. Was impressive in the win against the Sharks ending up with three goals to go with 11 possessions, three tackles and two marks.
HALF-FORWARD FLANK – HAIDEN SCHLOITHE (South Fremantle)
Continues to show his class this season. He might not be needing to rack up the huge possession numbers, but everything he does is so clean where he rarely fumbles and then is also creative and effective with his use of the ball. Was best on ground in South Fremantle's 50-point win against Subiaco with 24 possessions, six inside-50 entries and two goals.
FORWARD POCKET – BRAYDEN LAWLER (Peel Thunder)
The dual premiership winning hard man has been a key player for Peel for several years now and has proven himself valuable for his versatility of being able to play at both ends, and in the middle for stints. He brought up his 100th WAFL game on Saturday and despite the loss to Claremont, he battled hard up forward for 13 disposals, nine tackles, four inside 50s and a goal.
FULL-FORWARD – MICHAEL LOUREY (West Perth)
The experienced key forward has rediscovered some impressive goal kicking form now over the past couple of weeks and that continued in a stunning opening to the game against East Perth on Saturday. Kicked the game's opening three goals and finished four for the day to go with 11 disposals, seven marks and three inside-50 entries.
FORWARD POCKET – BRANDON DONALDSON (South Fremantle)
The lively small forward is now an experienced WAFL player with 55 games under his belt and is thriving on the big moments, and big opponents the Bulldogs come up against. He had an impressive game on Saturday against Subiaco with two goals to go with 19 possessions, three marks, three inside 50s and two tackles.
RUCK – ZAC STROM (South Fremantle)
He put together a remarkable game on Saturday in the win over Subiaco. He started the game on the wing as a tremendously tall wingman and had a huge first half. But then Brock Higgins went off with a hamstring injury and he had to play in the ruck in the second half and was equally effective. Ended the game with 21 possessions, 17 hit outs and four marks, and after 110 games could very well be in career-best form.
RUCK ROVER – SHANE NELSON (West Perth)
It's remarkable to think that the triple West Perth fairest and best winner and premiership star has averaged over 30 possessions for his 162-game career, and that despite the shortened quarters in 2020 he has been able to maintain the pace. He produced a season-best 34 possessions in win against East Perth to go with six tackles, three marks and three inside 50s.
ROVER – JACKSON RAMSAY (East Perth)
The reigning East Perth fairest and best winner continued his remarkable form since returning from a knee reconstruction at the start of 2019. His team might have struggled in the loss to West Perth but through no fault of his own after he delivered 29 possessions, 14 tackles and a goal.
INTERCHANGE – JAKE FLORENCA (South Fremantle)
Has turned himself into South Fremantle's leading midfielder now in 2020 having had to bang down the door to earn a regular league berth which he was finally able to do by the start of 2019. Was tremendous again in the big win against Subiaco finishing the afternoon with 26 possessions and four tackles.
INTERCHANGE – AARON BLACK (West Perth)
The inspirational and courageous West Perth skipper is edging ever closer to his 200-game milestone and remains one of the very best and most consistent midfield performers in the competition. Was instrumental again in big win against East Perth with 31 disposals, seven marks, six tackles and three entries inside the forward 50.
INTERCHANGE – JARED HARDISTY (Claremont)
Has had a challenging last 18 months trying to get back to his best football of 2018 after injury robbed him of most of his 2019 season, but he's working his way into some impressive form now in the Claremont midfield. Produced 26 possessions, six tackles, six inside-50 entries and a goal in the win against Peel.
INTERCHANGE – JORDAN SNADDEN (East Fremantle)
After missing all of 2019, he has proven like a golden new recruit for East Fremantle so far in 2020. Has likely been his team's best player over the opening four weeks and was instrumental in the midfield again on Saturday against Perth to end up with 20 possessions, three inside 50s and two tackles.
There were plenty of players who delivered tremendous performances across Round 4 but couldn’t quite fit into the Team of the Round, including:
West Perth pair Connor West and Mitch Peirce.
East Perth's Angus Schumacher, Angus Scott, Rohan Kerr and Aidan Lynch.
Claremont's Ryan Lim, Declan Mountford and Jeremy Goddard.
Peel Thunder's Ben Hancock, Jackson Merrett, Michael Randall, Matt Bogensperger, Zach Rankin and Blair Bell.
East Fremantle's Cody Leggett and Cam Eardley.
Perth's Logan McDonald and Matthew Taylor.
Subiaco's Bailey Matera, Lachlan Delahunty, Ben Newton, Leigh Kitchin and Greg Clark.
South Fremantle's Dylan Main and Kade Stewart.