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Round 8 Optus WAFL PreviewFriday, September 4, 2020 - 11:49 AM - by Chris Pike

WITH milestones galore and all four matches to have an impact on the finals race it's shaping as a fascinating and defining Round 8 of the 2020 Optus WAFL Premiership Season this Saturday afternoon.

While it feels like the 2020 WAFL season is just warming up, all of a sudden Saturday marks the second last round of the home and away season, and with six teams still in the finals hunt things are certainly reaching critical points.

Only South Fremantle is guaranteed right now of playing finals with the Bulldogs still undefeated after six games and while West Perth has only lost once, and Claremont and Perth twice each, none of them are yet guaranteed anything.

Subiaco and East Perth both kept their finals hopes alive with victories last weekend and now the Lions and Royals can continue to press their cases forward to break into the top four should they keep winning.

That sets the stage for a thrilling finish to the shortened WAFL season and we could learn plenty more this Saturday about who remains a finals chance going into the final round.

Quite simply, Subiaco and East Perth must win their games to be any hope while the winner from Claremont's game with West Perth will book themselves in a spot. 

A win will be important for Perth but still won't guarantee their finals drought ending should either Subiaco or East Perth, or both, win as well.

With all four matches that are taking place in Round 8 having a say in the finals race, it's going to be an afternoon of football you don't want to take your eyes off.

It all gets underway with two-time reigning premiers Subiaco hosting East Fremantle at Leederville Oval.

The Lions have had a remarkable dominance over the Sharks this century, and they need to continue that on Saturday to keep their finals hopes alive as they try to win a third successive WAFL premiership.

Subiaco comes into the game having won its seven matches against East Fremantle by an average of 68.4 points. The last win by the Sharks over the Lions came in Round 3, 2016 and incredibly it was by a monstrous 80 points.

But prior to that, Subiaco had won five in-a-row against East Fremantle so the Lions have won 12 of the last 13 meetings. 

Going back further and following a Sharks win in Round 12, 2002, Subiaco's dominance really began and in the 44 games between the two teams in the 18 years since, the Lions have won 38 of them.

However, that dominance guarantees nothing for Subiaco on Saturday and with the pressure of needing to win to keep their season alive, the Sharks might be able to take advantage of that.

East Fremantle might have just one win on the board so far in 2020, but it could have so easily been different had it not been for a six-point loss to Perth, four-point defeat to West Perth and then going down by five points to Claremont last Saturday.

Subiaco can only still reach the finals with a loss should Perth also lose to Swan Districts on Saturday so there's plenty on the line but the Lions did rediscover some form last week to beat the Demons to remain in the hunt.

The Lions look to have a stronger team again too having added premiership stars Hayden Kennedy and Angus Litherland to the squad along with youngsters Wil Hickmott and Oskar Matthews.

East Fremantle has added Tim Bockman, Cameron Davidson, Jordan Mills, Anthony Montauban and Brynn Teakle.

Next up could very well be the game of the round between the third placed Claremont and second placed West Perth at Claremont's Revo Fitness Stadium.

The equation is simple for both the Tigers and Falcons coming into this game, win and they are guaranteed of playing finals in 2020 and are a good chance of earning a top two spot and the double chance that goes with it.

However, a loss for either side leaves them still a little vulnerable to the chasing pack. 

With both teams on five wins coming into the game and the possible of Subiaco and East Perth still being able to reach the five wins, it could all come down to percentage which is something Claremont and West Perth would surely like to avoid. 

West Perth would have another chance in the final round to book their spot against Subiaco but this is the last chance for Claremont who has the Round 9 bye.

Claremont just got over the line last week over East Fremantle following a loss to Perth while West Perth is fresh off the bye and has won its last four matches since suffering its lone defeat of 2020 to South Fremantle.

From the Tigers team that did beat the Sharks, Alex Manuel and Tyron Smallwood come back into the squad as does Anthony Davis with Jack Buller, Max Spyvee and Isaac Wallace a chance to make their debuts.

From the West Perth team that beat East Fremantle prior to the bye, coach Geoff Valentine has decided to come in with the same 22 including Laine Rasmussen with the 2013 premiership player celebrating his 100th game on the occasion.

Given West Perth beat East Fremantle by four points two weeks ago and Claremont beat the Sharks by five last week, that's an indication of the tight contest that lies ahead.

Next up is the undefeated South Fremantle hosting East Perth at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.

South Fremantle is also guaranteed of playing finals in 2020 and now a win on Saturday will lock away 100 per cent a top two finish, and likely the minor premiership to earn them a finals double chance.

But East Perth has its season to play for so the Royals will be throwing everything at upsetting the Bulldogs and handing them their first loss of the season.

East Perth could still be an outside chance of playing finals with a loss on Saturday if Perth also loses to Swan Districts, but it will be getting dicey. The Royals do finish up against the winless Peel Thunder though.

South Fremantle has won the last five meetings with East Perth since the Royals scored an upset one-point win at Fremantle Community Bank Oval in Round 10, 2017.

South Fremantle looks likely to welcome back former East Perth ruckman Brock Higgins for the game as well along with defender Chris Luff. 

Tom Blechynden, Jarrad Doney, Kyle Hamersley and Andrew Haydon are the other players added to the squad for the Bulldogs against the Royals.

Noah Strom (hamstring) and Kyle Russell (shoulder) go out of the South Fremantle team injured following last week's win in Mandurah over Peel.

From the East Perth team that beat Swan Districts last week to keep its season alive on the back of a stirring win against Subiaco, Mitch Dobson, Jonathan Freeman, Jordan Hayden and Taylor North have been added to the squad.

Then last up for Round 8 is the broadcast game on Channel 7 from 3pm with Swan Districts playing host to Perth at Bassendean's Steel Blue Oval.

Swan Districts has won just one game so far in 2020 but they have been more competitive than that suggests and they won't be interested in handing Perth anything on their home ground on Saturday.

Adding to the motivation for Swans will be premiership star Matt Riggio playing his 200th WAFL game.

Perth missed a chance to go a long way to locking in a finals spot last week against Subiaco but the Demons can remain in the top four with a win on Saturday against Swan Districts.

Perth is desperate to take part in a WAFL finals series for the first time since 1997 but things are now getting interested with two games remaining. 

Depending on what Subiaco and East Perth do over the next two weeks, the Demons could still need to win their remaining two matches against Swans and South Fremantle to be guaranteed of that finals spot.

From the Swans team that lost to East Perth last Saturday, Tarir Bayok, Thomas Edwards, Denzel More, Lachlan Riley and Jak Watson have been added to the squad with Seb Bright going out.

Mitch Browne, Kristian Cary, Mitch Henderson, Guy Langdon and Conor McPartland have all been added to Perth's squad with Matthew Rogers to return from suspension and Brant College back to celebrate his 100th WAFL appearance.

Ethan Hansen, Lennon Marlin and Samuel Stubbs are the three players named out for Perth at this stage.


Live scores, stats  

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Broadcast – ABC Radio (720am)

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Broadcast – 91.3 SportFM

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Broadcast – Channel 7