THE penultimate round of the 2020 Optus WAFL Premiership Season threw up some fascinating results to heat up the race for a finals spot and there were some standout individual performances from spearheads, star midfielders and defenders alike.
There is now just one round remaining in the 2020 WAFL season and there are still six teams who are a chance of reaching the top four and therefore taking part in the finals series.
That was all set up by what happened in Round 8 which saw Subiaco move into fourth position thanks to a big finish to beat East Fremantle 12.12 (84) to 6.7 (43) at Leederville Oval.
Claremont then guaranteed its finals position ahead of their final round bye with an impressive 10.12 (72) to 5.11 (41) victory against West Perth at Claremont's Revo Fitness Stadium.
South Fremantle locked in the minor premiership as well and stayed undefeated coming from the clouds to beat East Perth 13.7 (85) to 9.9 (63) at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.
Perth's finals hopes took a big hit too when Swan Districts won its second game of the season, defeating the Demons 11.9 (75) to 7.6 (48) at Bassendean's Steel Blue Oval.
That means that South Fremantle and Claremont are locked in for the finals while it will take a massive defeat for West Perth against Subiaco for the Falcons to miss out.
Subiaco can guarantee their spot just by beating West Perth while Perth has to beat South Fremantle who is so far undefeated and then hope other results fall the way of the Demons too if their finals drought isn’t to extend to 23 years.
East Perth is the most outside of hopes but a massive win for the Royals against the winless Peel Thunder will give them a sniff should both Subiaco and Perth lose to West Perth and South Fremantle respectively.
Then there is the standout individual performers for the weekend and once again the race for spots in the WAFL Team of the Week was a hot one.
PLAYER OF THE ROUND – MASON SHAW (SOUTH FREMANTLE)
Mason Shaw became just the second player in the 2020 WAFL season to kick a bag of five goals when he did so on Saturday for South Fremantle against East Perth to take the lead in the race for the Bernie Naylor Medal with one round to go.
Shaw is in career-best form now in the shortened 2020 WAFL season having kicked 21 goals to date for the Bulldogs in the seven matches including the five on Saturday in the remarkable come from behind win against East Perth at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.
He has now kicked 13 goals in the past three games as well after managing a serviceable eight in the opening four matches of the season so he is in roaring form as the spearhead of the attack for a South Fremantle team yet to be defeated and who is guaranteed of the minor premiership in 2020.
That now sets the scene for a Bernie Naylor Medal shootout this Saturday afternoon in the final round of the home away season.
Shaw is coming into the final round leading on 21 goals but is only one goal ahead of Perth's rookie Logan McDonald with the Bulldogs and Demons doing battle at Lathlain's Mineral Resources Park.
That adds another level of intrigue to a game already with so much fascination to see if South Fremantle can go through undefeated or if Perth can win and then hope Subiaco has lost to West Perth in order to reach the finals for the first time since 1997.
But as for Shaw, he has now had a brilliant last 18 months for South Fremantle since becoming the main target in the Bulldogs' forward-line.
When he first returned from his stint in the AFL system with Port Adelaide, he was part of an ensemble cast in the forward-line for South Fremantle including the likes of Ben Saunders, Cory Dell'Olio, Matthew Parker, Blaine Johnson, Zac Strom, Haiden Schloithe and others.
But now it is Shaw's forward-line at South Fremantle and he has the 21 goals in seven games in 2020 after kicking 55 in 2019, 47 in 2018, 44 in 2017 and 51 in 2016.
It would be a great reward for his consistency to win the Bernie Naylor Medal in 2020 but really what he is craving as Bulldogs vice-captain is a premiership to go with the success he enjoyed at colts level before leaving for Port Adelaide.
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)
Round 5 – Leigh Kitchin (Subiaco)
Round 6 – Nathan Blee (East Perth)
Round 7 – Jye Bolton (Claremont)
Round 8 – Mason Shaw (South Fremantle)
BACK POCKET – DENVER GRAINGER-BARRAS (Swan Districts)
The rookie has had a solidly consistent season down back for Swan Districts ahead of his expected first round selection in the 2020 AFL Draft, and he enhanced his prospects on Saturday in a fascinating battle with likely top three draft pick from Perth, Logan McDonald. His opponent still kicked three goals from four kicks but he was tremendous overall and had 16 disposals and eight marks.
FULL-BACK – HAYDN BUSHER (Claremont)
Continued his brilliant season as Claremont's leader and No. 1 key defender now in 2020 with the move of Anton Hamp going forward, which has also worked a treat. Was given the job on West Perth's Tyler Keitel and not only kept him scoreless and to five kicks, but had 13 possessions, five tackles and three marks to be one of the best afield.
BACK POCKET – BLAKE WILHELM (West Perth)
Continues to perform consistently as one of the best attacking defenders with the way he is able to set up play for West Perth from half-back. Is now a 96-game WAFL veteran too and did all he could against the tide against Claremont to end the game with 23 disposals, eight marks and three entries inside the forward 50.
HALF-BACK FLANK – BAILEY ROGERS (Claremont)
Is now becoming an invaluable player for Claremont whether providing the run off half-back or making the most of his time playing on the midfield. Had another standout performance in win over West Perth, finishing the afternoon with 27 possessions, three marks and two tackles.
CENTRE HALF-BACK – BLAYNE WILSON (South Fremantle)
East Perth did a lot of things right against South Fremantle on Saturday, but one thing that didn’t fire was their key forward targets and he was a big reason why. Long been recognised as the best intercept defensive marker in the WAFL, he was tremendous against the Royals with 14 possessions and four marks while keeping Eddie Simpson quiet.
HALF-BACK FLANK – CHAD PEARSON (South Fremantle)
He is having a second straight brilliant season with South Fremantle and it would be downright bizarre if AFL clubs aren’t seriously considering him picking him up now for 2021 given his age, versatility and all-round abilities. Was impressive defensively again against East Perth and also had 22 disposals and seven marks.
WING – KYAL HORSLEY (Subiaco)
Subiaco has stormed back into finals contention the last two weeks and it's no surprise that has coincided with his return. The five-time premiership legend is showing no signs of slowing down 206 games into his unbelievable WAFL career and he was brilliant again in win against East Fremantle with 26 disposals, eight inside-50 entries, five tackles and two goals.
CENTRE – FRANK ANDERSON (Swan Districts)
He along with Sam Fisher were heralded recruits for Swan Districts on Saturday, and they have delivered to likely to be running one and two, or close to it, in Swan Medal voting for 2020. The pair were again brilliant together in the win against Perth but he gets the nod in the Team of the Week on the back of 24 possessions, eight tackles, five marks and four inside-50 entries.
WING – ROHAN KERR (East Perth)
For more than three quarters on Saturday, East Perth was well on top of South Fremantle and looked likely to score a win to enhance their finals hopes significantly. He was instrumental in that and while they didn’t quite close the deal, he had a terrific performance made up of 27 touches, nine marks, five inside 50s and a goal.
HALF-FORWARD FLANK – JAYDEN MAGRO (East Perth)
While East Perth's tall forwards didn’t fire against South Fremantle on Saturday, he was tremendous at ground level and a big reason why the Royals were in a winning position most of the day. He kicked three clever and skilful goals to go with 10 disposals and three inside-50 entries for the game in his 18th appearance with East Perth.
CENTRE HALF-FORWARD – LEIGH KOHLMANN (Swan Districts)
He might not get a lot of the ball, but he continues to provide the main tall option in attack for Swan Districts, creates a contest every time it comes near him and when he does get the ball in his hands, he makes the most of his chances. He kicked three goals from his four kicks and three marks in the win against Perth on Saturday.
HALF-FORWARD FLANK – MAX WALTERS (Subiaco)
Given all the superstars he has been playing with at Subiaco, he has quietly flown under the radar as an outstanding two-time premiership player whether he is playing in the midfield or across half-forward. He was instrumental in win over East Fremantle with 20 possessions and a goal.
FORWARD POCKET – ALEC WATERMAN (Claremont)
He is now showing every ounce of talent that did see him drafted to the West Coast Eagles to follow in his father's Chris' footsteps and before younger brother Jake was on the scene. Injury and illness robbed him of making a real go of that, but he is now showing what he's capable of when healthy and delivered another four goals from 16 touches and eight marks.
FORWARD POCKET – BEN SOKOL (Subiaco)
The reigning Bernie Naylor and Grand Final Simpson Medallist had only eight goals to his credit so far in 2020 leading into Saturday's game against the Sharks. But he put in likely his best game of the season for the Lions to help in the crucial win by kicking two goals to go with 16 touches and seven marks.
RUCK – COREY GAULT (Swan Districts)
Has once again taken on the crown as the premier ruckman in the competition which is where he was at in his fairest and best winning season back in 2017. He has been needed elsewhere since by Swan Districts, but has been brilliant back in the ruck this year and that included against Perth where he had 21 touches, 25 hit outs, five marks and two tackles.
RUCK ROVER – JYE BOLTON (Claremont)
The dual Sandover and Simpson Medal winner is now producing another standout season with Claremont and had a huge performance once more in the midfield for the Tigers against the Falcons to close their home and away season. Finished up with 37 possessions, five marks, five tackles and three inside-50 entries.
ROVER – JACKSON RAMSAY (East Perth)
The reigning East Perth fairest and best winner could have even taken his game to another level in this shortened WAFL season and he continued that on in the midfield against South Fremantle on Saturday for the Royals. Ended the game with 28 possessions, 10 tackles, six inside-50 entries and three marks, and even earned five free-kicks.
INTERCHANGE – LIAM HICKMOTT (Subiaco)
Was playing just his second WAFL game on Saturday and was outstanding for Subiaco in the win against East Fremantle. He and brother Wil have long been thought of as AFL-level talents coming through the ranks and the sons of former Geelong and Carlton AFL player Adrian are doing well early at league level. Liam was brilliant on Saturday with 24 possessions and eight tackles.
INTERCHANGE – LACHLAN DELAHUNTY (Subiaco)
The reigning Sandover Medallist is warming up nicely late in the WAFL season to be leading Subiaco's charge to another finals appearance as he tries to add to his triple premiership career. There were a host of terrific ruck performances in Round 8 and his was one of them for the Lions with 19 possessions, 35 hit outs, three marks, three tackles and three inside-50 entries.
INTERCHANGE – ZAC STROM (South Fremantle)
Is spending more and more time on the wing as the 2020 season unfolds with his talents now no longer needed to be locked down as a tall forward and back up ruckman. It's proving a great luxury for the Bulldogs to have and he is thriving in the role, finishing with another 20 possessions, six marks and five inside-50 entries against East Perth.
INTERCHANGE – JESSE TURNER (Swan Districts)
Continues to thrive in his new role as a creative and attacking half-back having spent most of his 84-game WAFL career either as an inside or outside midfielder. Was pivotal in the win against Perth finishing with another 27 possessions, six marks, four inside-50 entries and three tackles.
There were plenty of players who delivered tremendous performances across Round 8 but couldn’t quite fit into the Team of the Round, including:
Subiaco's Leigh Kitchin, Greg Clark and Hayden Kennedy.
East Fremantle's Ambrose Ryan, Milan Murdock, Kody Manning and Tim Bockman.
Claremont's Ryan Nyhuis, Ryan Lim, Declan Mountford, Jared Hardisty, Max Spyvee, Tyron Smallwood and Oliver Eastland.
West Perth's Aaron Black, Connor West, Trent Manzone and Tristan Hobley.
South Fremantle's Dylan Main, Nick Suban, Brock Higgins, Chris Luff and John Levien.
East Perth's Nathan Blee, Kye Willcocks and Nick Robertson.
Swan Districts' Tony Notte, Sam Fisher and Josh Cipro.
Perth's Logan McDonald and Fraser McInnes.