THE WAFL season could not have possibly finished in more dramatic or emotional fashion with Perth beating South Fremantle to secure their first finals appearance since 1997, and the battles for spots in the last Team of the Round for the season was hot as well.
It was a simply remarkable finish to the 2020 Optus WAFL Premiership Season with the way things panned out on Saturday afternoon and evening.
First up East Perth did what it could by beating Peel Thunder 15.11 (101) to 4.6 (30) at Leederville Oval. West Perth then also beat Subiaco 12.5 (77) to 8.10 (58) at the same time at Joondalup's Provident Financial Oval.
What those two results meant was that East Perth had leapfrogged Subiaco on percentage into fourth position while West Perth had just missed short on jumping Claremont into second spot on percentage.
So it was all down to Lathlain's Mineral Resources Park where if Perth could hand South Fremantle its first loss of the season, then the Demons would replace East Perth in fourth position and play finals for the first time in 23 years.
It didn’t look good with South Fremantle 15 points up in the third quarter, but Perth dominated the last quarter and eventually got the go-ahead goal thanks to Matthew Rogers and they ended up winning 8.18 (66) to 9.7 (61).
The round then ended on Sunday with Swan Districts beating East Fremantle 11.9 (75) to 6.8 (44), and along the way in all four matches a host of players put their hands up for Player of the Week honours with spots in the Team of the Year on the line potentially as well.
PLAYER OF THE ROUND – MATTHEW ROGERS (PERTH)
There is no more outwardly emotional Perth player than Matthew Rogers and seeing him kick the winning goal in the fourth quarter on Saturday night, and his subsequent celebrations would have caused even the toughest of souls to see their hearts begin to melt.
And it wasn’t a sentimental choice that he is named the Player of the Week either.
With his teammates all around him lining up to kick behinds in the final quarter on Saturday night and the frustration levels growing louder from the Demons faithful as they began to fear the worst that they would blow another chance to end their finals drought, the weight of the world was on his shoulders.
He might have only been kicking from 15m out on a slight angle after taking a chest mark just alongside the goal square, but there was 23 years of frustration and anticipation of thousands of Perth supporters, members and followers resting on his admittedly broad shoulders.
His left foot is known for its power and that has been the case over his 149-game WAFL career, but accuracy over shorter distances hasn’t always been his strong suit.
But he showed nerves of steel on Saturday night to kick what ultimately would be the only goal of the last quarter to put Perth in front of South Fremantle where they would stay and a finals berth that at times since 1997 has appeared would never happen was finally a reality.
It capped an outstanding night for Rogers too as he proved the best and most efficient forward in the game. He ended up kicking three goals to go with 13 possessions, eight marks, six tackles and six entries inside the forward 50.
The passion Rogers plays with is infectious for all his teammates and indeed the supporters alike. Combine that with him being the powerhouse that he is and his booming left foot and it's no surprise why he's such a favourite son of the Demons.
That also makes it even more surprising that he did spend six seasons with Swan Districts after playing the first 33 games of his WAFL league career with Perth.
But a falling out at Swans late in the 2018 season might have proved the best thing ultimately for Rogers and the Demons as he's back where he belongs.
Now he will be looking for his production and infectious personality to help the Demons break another hoodoo this Sunday against West Perth in the first semi-final in what will double as his 150th WAFL appearance made up of 93 games at Swans and 57 at Perth.
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)
Round 9 – Matthew Rogers (Perth)
BACK POCKET – BEN RIOLI (South Fremantle)
He has settled nicely into the South Fremantle line-up in 2020 after making the move from the Northern Territory to continue the remarkable history of his family with the Bulldogs. Has got more up the field in recent weeks too and took an inspirationally courageous mark against Perth to end up kicking a goal to go with 14 possessions and three tackles.
FULL-BACK – KASEY NICHOLAS (Perth)
For the past five weeks now he has consolidated himself as an important part of the Perth back-line providing Clayton Giblett some much-needed support. He had the job on lively South Fremantle tall forward Jimmy Miller on Saturday night and did well to keep him scoreless while having 10 possessions, two marks and two tackles himself.
BACK POCKET – LAINE RASMUSSEN (West Perth)
A week after celebrating his 100th game for West Perth, the premiership defender was outstanding in Saturday's important win against Subiaco that guaranteed a finals spot for the Falcons. He produced a terrific performance in the back-line and ended up with 18 possessions and four marks to go along with it.
HALF-BACK FLANK – MATTHEW TAYLOR (Perth)
Now has 63 games under his belt with the Demons either side of his time in the AFL with North Melbourne and he has been instrumental in Perth breaking their finals drought with a tremendous 2020 season. He was matched up with South Fremantle's Sandover Medallist Haiden Schloithe and did a good job ending the night with 18 disposals and three marks.
CENTRE HALF-BACK – NATHAN BLEE (East Perth)
The 141-game veteran has had another outstanding season in the back-line for East Perth and he showed on Saturday just how desperate he was to play finals again with the Royals with a tremendous game against Peel. He finished with 21 possessions and six marks.
HALF-BACK FLANK – MICHAEL RANDALL (Peel Thunder)
This has been a tough season for Peel and it was always likely to be once they lost Fremantle's AFL-listed players without the chance to really replace them, but the opportunities created for locals has been the positive and he has grabbed the chance to be a regular midfielder and thrived as a result. Ended up with a strong showing in a big loss on Saturday with 22 possessions and seven marks.
WING – ANDREW FISHER (Perth)
What a bonus he has been for Perth once West Coast didn’t end up fielding a team in the WAFL in 2020, and whether it's been on the wing or off half-back, he has produced a terrific and consistent season. He put on another big game in Saturday night's win against South Fremantle with 26 possessions and nine marks.
CENTRE – SHANE NELSON (West Perth)
He might not have received the attention or recognition this season as he has for a lot of his triple fairest and best winning, premiership winning 166-game career, but he has still been tremendously consistent again in 2020. Had another strong showing against Subiaco on Saturday finishing with 28 possessions, three marks and two tackles.
WING – JESSE TURNER (Swan Districts)
Could very well have had the best season, albeit a shortened one, of his 85-game career with Swan Districts having split his time between playing on the wing and providing great run and drive off half-back. Was tremendous on the wing in win over East Fremantle on Sunday kicking two long-range goals with the wind behind his back to go with 32 possessions, seven inside-50 entries, six marks and five tackles.
HALF-FORWARD FLANK – KADE STEWART (South Fremantle)
He has spent more time in the forward-line this season with South Fremantle than he might have anticipated, but it's worked a treat for both himself with the form he's produced and the team for how well he's helped them perform. He kicked another two goals to go with 19 disposals and nine tackles in narrow loss to the Demons.
CENTRE HALF-FORWARD – COREY GAULT (Swan Districts)
He might have only spent his time resting from the ruck in the forward-line, but he's locked in a fascinating battle to be the league's No. 1 ruckman in 2020 with Lachlan Delahunty. Is sharing his ruck and forward role well at Swan Districts with Nathan Blakely, and finished Sunday's win over East Fremantle with 22 disposals, 23 hit outs, three marks and two tackles.
HALF-FORWARD FLANK – MAX WALTERS (Subiaco)
The dual premiership player was sorely missed in the couple of games he missed earlier in the season for Subiaco and he's shown his value upon his return splitting his time between playing at half-forward and in the midfield. Was again impressive in loss to West Perth with 17 disposals, six tackles, three inside 50s and a goal.
FULL-FORWARD – TYLER KEITEL (West Perth)
It has almost been feast or famine this season for the West Perth spearhead and it was another day out for him against Subiaco on Saturday. He kicked another five goals from 12 kicks and eight marks. He's kicked 16 of his 21 goals for the season in three of the eight games, and just five in the other five.
FORWARD POCKET – ANGUS SCOTT (East Perth)
He is only named in the forward pocket because of the number of players putting their hands up to be either on the wing or midfield in this week's team. He delivered another brilliant hard-running performance for East Perth in the big win over Peel to complete his second season at the Royals with three goals to go with 26 disposals, 12 marks and four tackles.
RUCK – LACHLAN DELAHUNTY (Subiaco)
The reigning Sandover Medallist and triple premiership player has warmed up to this shortened WAFL season nicely and is now going neck and neck with Corey Gault to be considered the league's best ruckman in 2020. Had another impressive display despite loss to West Perth finishing with 18 touches, 36 hit outs, four tackles and three inside-50 entries.
RUCK ROVER – JACKSON RAMSAY (East Perth)
The reigning East Perth fairest and best winner will surely be tough to beat again for the FD Book Medal in 2020. He has cemented himself as one of the top midfielders in the WAFL the last two years coming off his knee reconstruction in 2018 and finished in style on Saturday against the Thunder with 35 touches, five inside-50 entries, three marks and three tackles.
ROVER – SAM FISHER (Swan Districts)
Was looked at as a boom recruit for Swan Districts upon arrival from the VFL in 2020 and while it took later than expected to get going thanks to COVID-19, he certainly hasn't failed to deliver. Capped off his tremendous season in the midfield for the Black Ducks with 28 possessions, six tackles, six inside 50s, four marks and a goal.
INTERCHANGE – AARON BLACK (West Perth)
The West Perth captain celebrated his 200-game milestone on Saturday for the Falcons and not only did he get to enjoy a win to guarantee a finals spot, but he was one of the best afield as well to continue his brilliant 2020 season. Finished the afternoon with 26 possessions, seven tackles, three marks, three inside-50 entries and a goal.
INTERCHANGE – CAMERON EARDLEY (East Fremantle)
Anyone who saw how hard he battled against the tide with and without the ball on Sunday in the eventual loss to Swan Districts couldn’t have helped but admire him enormously. The 114-game veteran was clearly East Fremantle's best performer on the day and ended up with 26 possessions, six inside 50s, five marks and five tackles.
INTERCHANGE – JACOB DRAGOVICH (South Fremantle)
He did miss a couple of games this season but has been a mainstay and prolific ball winner once again in South Fremantle's midfield and a significant reason for them claiming the minor premiership. Had another big game on Saturday night made up of 27 possessions, seven tackles, seven inside-50 entries and five marks.
INTERCHANGE – LEIGH KITCHIN (Subiaco)
The Subiaco captain clearly didn’t want to accept missing out on playing finals for the first time in his 114-game WAFL career with the Lions. While he couldn’t quite drag them over the line against West Perth, he couldn’t have done any more and delivered 23 disposals, 13 tackles and four entries inside the forward 50.
There were plenty of players who delivered tremendous performances across Round 9 but couldn’t quite fit into the Team of the Round, including:
East Perth's Aidan Lynch, Nick Robertson, Rohan Kerr and Kye Willcocks.
Peel Thunder's Josh Bootsma, Ben Howlett, Matt Bogensperger and Jackson Merrett.
West Perth's Connor West.
Subiaco's Kyal Horsley and Greg Clark.
Perth's Brant Colledge, Brady Grey, Zac Hill and Marshall Jones.
South Fremantle's Caleb Datson, Chad Pearson, Nick Suban, Brandon Donaldson and Brock Higgins.
East Fremantle's Blaine Boekhorst, Cody Leggett, Jarrad Jansen and Milan Murdock.
Swan Districts' Matt Riggio, Frank Anderson and Josh Cipro.