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Keunen ready to lead Falcons from the ruck

Friday, September 20, 2013 - 6:54 PM - by Chris Pike

CHRIS Keunen had to bide his time and show loyalty and patience to become West Perth's No. 1 ruckman and now he will have one of the biggest jobs on the ground in Sunday's grand final against East Perth at Patersons Stadium.

When Keunen arrived at West Perth in 2006 from amateur Victorian club St Bernard's and had to battle with Rob Warnock, Darren Atkinson, Mark Seaby and then Mitch Andrews in the early years for a spot in the ruck, but he has now well and truly cemented himself as the Falcons' No. 1 big man.

While those first few years saw him battling for a spot and now he needs to continue to perform to hold out the emerging Frank Stockley, Keunen has developed into one of the best and most consistent big men in the competition.

The 29-year-old has played 132 games and the 199cm big man has been able to carry the ruck load virtually on his own often being double-teamed by the opposition, and more than holding his own both in the actual ruck contests and in picking up plenty of the ball around the ground.

That will again be the case in this Sunday's grand final against East Perth with the Royals to throw their duo Paul Johnson and Scott Lycett at him.

However, Keunen has stood up to every challenge asked of him since Bill Monaghan took over as coach in 2009 and by now getting to play in his first grand final and West Perth's first since 2003, it's a great reward for him sticking at it and showing loyalty to the Falcons.

"It obviously is a bit of a reward for sticking around when I had a few opportunities to go elsewhere, but being a one club player at the end of the day and having the opportunity to play 100 games at the footy club meant a lot to me," Keunen said.

"Personally when I played my 100th game I said that I probably didn’t work hard enough earlier in my career and I expected things to happen, but now I've had to work harder and force myself into the No. 1 position rather than being in and out of the team.

"Now that I have cemented my spot, I have to keep working hard and playing well because Frank Stockley is chomping at the bit for an opportunity."

When Keunen first arrived at West Perth he thought it might be just a fun experiment to play in the west for a couple of years, but he fell in love with the West Perth Football Club and living in Perth so much that it's now where he will finish his career and continue to live afterwards.

"At the time of moving over I probably thought we'd stay for a couple of years. My girlfriend at the time, now my wife, spoke about staying two years to give it a good opportunity and now we don't even think about going home at all, Perth is our home," he said.

"Back then it was just about playing footy for a club which at that time I had never heard of, but now obviously it's a massive part of my life.

"My name is the first one on the No. 19 locker and now the opportunity to get to 150 games in the next year or two is really what is driving me as is trying to win a premiership with the club."

Even though it did take some time for Keunen to lock in the No. 1 ruck spot, he has had it for several years now and isn’t at all fazed about taking on two ruckmen on his own on Sunday in the grand final because that is exactly when he feels he plays his best football.

"I've been pretty much the only ruckman for the last three or four years now and I'm pretty comfortable with where I'm at fitness-wise and what I can do by myself. It's always nice to have an extra set of legs out there at times to help you out, but I'm pretty confident either way," Keunen said.

"Since I've come over here I have tended to play better football when I have had the role in the ruck to myself because to me coming on and off the bench loses a bit of your momentum, but if I can stay out there you get into a groove and work into the game better.

"That is something I have had to work on as well because in Victoria I was used to smaller grounds but playing on the bigger grounds like Joondalup has helped me get my fitness base right up there."

Keunen does need to keep performing, though, because Stockley has dominated in the reserves throughout 2013 and won the Prendergast Medal for the best player in the competition.

However, Keunen knows exactly how he feels and hopes Stockley stays patient because he will be the ideal partner for Keunen when the coaching staff want two ruckmen and he's the perfect replacement for him when he retires in the next one, two or three years.

"If he sticks at it, he's already shown what he can do both in the reserves and league team, then it's just about him grabbing those chances when they come," he said.

"He is fantastic around the club, he loves everyone at the club and is always smiling and happy, and having a laugh and joking around with everyone. He is passionate about what he's doing and the footy club, and if he sticks with it obviously more opportunities will come his way."

Keunen has no doubt that his first finals victory in the second semi-final over Claremont at Claremont Oval was the highlight of his career, but just making a grand final isn’t something anyone wants to settle for, they want to win the premiership.

Keunen is glad to be sharing the grand final with teammates like Jason Salecic, Matt Guadagnin, Ray Bartholomew, Andrew Strijk and Dan Hunt, though, who he has played his entire career at the Falcons with.

"For sure it was the best moment in my career so far, it was pretty special. It's a bit hard to explain because at the same time you are stoked to be in it, but you know you still have another game to go," Keunen said.

"It was a matter of trying to keep a lid on it but enjoying the moment at the same time because it obviously doesn’t come around too often. We knew that having played in two prelims before and being beaten in them so the opportunity to now get to play in a grand final is fantastic.

"It's fantastic to share a grand final now with guys like Dan Hunt, Jason Salecic and Matt Guadagnin who have been around a lot longer than me. The one we are most disappointed for is 'Slick' for missing out on this, but for us older guys who have now played a lot of footy together it's going to be a special moment to run out there. It has been 10 years since the club has been in a grand final so it's going to be great to try and create some history for the club."

Keunen is looking forward to now being involved in the very first contest of the grand final when he contests the centre bounce up against Johnson, and he is confident that he can match the experienced big man throughout the day on what will be the biggest day of his career.

"It will be a pretty special moment to be part of that first bounce down of the game, and making the first contest. Hopefully I can have a big influence in that and get the game off to the right start for us," Keunen said.

"I think I have done OK against him in the past. Obviously he is a big possession winner for them so I have to try to quell him getting the footy around the ground, particularly around the forward 50 where he can score goals. He is also good at running forward hard from a contest so I just have to try to stop him getting forward of the play as much as I can.

"It is going to be a massive event. There is talk that the crowd is possibly going to be huge. It doesn’t matter who you play, it's a grand final so everything is going to step up. Just because it's a derby that will add a little bit of spice particularly in the first five or 10 minutes when everyone's adrenaline is pumping, but at the end of the day it's a grand final and you just have to do your best to try and win the premiership."

BY CHRIS PIKE


Wulff gets chance to replicate success of his heroes

Friday, September 20, 2013 - 5:04 PM - by Chris Pike

CRAIG Wulff watched his heroes play in a hat-trick of premiership for East Perth to start this century dreaming of following in their footsteps, and while it's taken him 224 games to get there, he will play in his first WAFL grand final this Sunday against West Perth at Patersons Stadium.

Wulff was a teenager coming through the ranks at East Perth between 2000 and 2002 when the Royals won three straight premierships with him breaking through for four league games in 2002, but the then 19-year-old wasn’t able to crack a spot in the grand final side that beat West Perth.

Ever since, though, he has been a permanent member of the line-up amassing 224 matches, winning a fairest and best award in 2010, playing twice for WA including as captain in 2012 and along the way he has become one of the most consistent and respected players in the competition.

However, a grand final appearance and chance at a premiership has eluded him until now.

East Perth made finals four times since the 2002 premiership but lost to West Perth in the 2003 preliminary final, to South Fremantle in the 2007 first semi-final (which Wulff missed through injury), to Swan Districts in the 2010 preliminary final and then last year to East Fremantle in a first semi-final.

That means that Wulff has now played in as many winning finals this year as he has all up over the previous decade with him now to lead the Royals into battle along with fellow co-captain Brendan Lee this Sunday against West Perth.

Wulff watched on 11 years ago as his heroes won a third straight premiership and while he never expected it would take so long to get the chance himself with his 225th match for the Royals being his first grand final, he's excited that he now does get an opportunity after such a long wait.

"The dream for me started back in the early 2000s when I watched the league team win three in-a-row and I was too young, and then not in their best 22 to play even when I was 18," Wulff said.

"What I watched them achieve and the happiness I saw it give them has spurred me on to play 220-odd games now just to get this chance of playing in a grand final.

"If I hadn’t seen them have that success I might not be here now, so I'm forever thankful to those players in the teams that won the three premierships for allowing me to watch that, be part of that and learn what it's all about off them. They were my idols then and still are today."

Wulff just tries to lead from the front with his actions and set the example to the young players coming through like he had set for him.

While he looked up to a host of Royals premiership stars, he admired none more than legendary hard man Devan Perry and in fact named one of his sons after him.

Even though Perry will be in West Perth's coaches box on Sunday, Wulff has no doubt he would still get a kick out of seeing an East Perth victory.

"I don’t know how the young guys in our side think of me now, but I feel part of the group and I try to keep acting as young as I can to try and stick in there with them," he said.

"I learnt from guys like Devan Perry, David Swan, Jeremy Barnard, Russell Thompson, Ryan Turnbull and all those legends taught me so if I can pass on a little bit of what they taught me then that's my job.

"That will be interesting for Devan but I know deep down he will be really happy for me to win one even though he'll be in a West Perth shirt. He is part of West Perth so he'll want them to win, but I'm sure deep down he would enjoy seeing me win one."

After Lee led East Perth out in the preliminary final win over Claremont at Claremont Oval last Sunday and toss the coin, Wulff will get that honour in the grand final but he's under no illusions that West Perth will be hard to shake.

"I think they are probably in a similar position to us having been around the mark for quite a while but not quite having the opportunity, but they seem to have a better core of players now with more mature bodies," he said.

"The match-ups will be real tight and they have a really good midfield but so do we, so I reckon it's a bit of a toss of a coin."

While the East Perth team does possess plenty of youth heading into Sunday's grand final, Wulff has played in almost 170 games now alongside former skipper Michael Swan as the pair prepare for their first grand final appearance.

There have been no more beloved East Perth players than those two in recent history and Wulff is grateful to get the chance to play alongside his old mate in a grand final, but really it won't mean a whole lot unless they are victorious on Sunday.

"I don’t know how I would feel after winning a premiership with Swanny, but there would be a lot of tears I would say. It's massive for us to get to play in a grand final together," Wulff said.

"All we've done is give ourselves a chance of winning one and I'm going to get ahead of myself or let the team get ahead of themselves.

"We've got a big job to do now and West Perth will not be easy obviously. They play a similar brand of footy to Claremont so if we can bring a similar brand of footy, then we will be in the contest."

Wulff has enjoyed his first year under coach Brian Dawson as well and a new role he has found himself playing.

The 30-year-old began his career as a tough half-back or back pocket before becoming a long-term wingman.

In recent years, he moved into the middle and became a clearance and hard ball winning machine, but this year Dawson has started to use him as a forward to put on enormous pressure and Wulff is enjoying it.

"He has been fantastic. He doesn’t go over the top, he's smart and he is just very calm and collected and lets us know what we need to without going too much over the top," he said.

"I have enjoyed it. I'm not getting any younger and I probably don’t cover the ground as well as other guys in the team, so I just have to know my role and mine is to put on good pressure in the forward-line, try to pinch a goal or two and pinch-hit in the midfield. I'm happy doing that."

There is no player more beloved by East Perth supporters than Wulff and the feeling goes both ways with him feeling plenty of love for the Royals faithful, and they spur him on even more because he doesn’t want them leaving Subiaco on Sunday after a loss in a grand final to West Perth.

"Our supporters mean everything to me and it's part of the reason you play the game to give something back to them. If you can make their day, week or year by playing good footy then that's part of what makes you play," Wulff said.

"For me it doesn’t matter who we play in a grand final, but for the supporters you know it means a bit extra playing West Perth so you want to do it for them and make sure they have a good day.

"They have supported us through thick and thin for years without much success recently so I would hate for them to have to walk out of the game as losers against West Perth."


Wesley Curtin looking to create history

Friday, September 20, 2013 - 1:58 PM

Wesley Curtin Amateur Football Club is looking to create history in the WA Amateur Football League this weekend as they take on two-time reigning Premiers, University Football Club, in the WAAFL A Grade Grand Final at Medibank Stadium.

2012 B Grade Premiers, Wesley Curtin is striving to become the first team ever to be promoted to the A Grade competition and win the Premiership in the same year.

In what has been a highly successful season for the Club, finishing second on the A Grade ladder, Wesley Curtin Head Coach Earl Spalding said he understands the significance of this weekend’s game. 

“The Club has never won an A grade premiership, so to do that regardless of where we were last year, would be an immense achievement.”

Spalding, with a a wealth of football history under his belt including  300 games and an AFL Premiership with Carlton, WAFL coach and AFL Assistant coaching experience, is under no impression this will be an easy game.

“It'll be a very close game that might go down to the wire. Both teams are very evenly matched”

Grand Final Opponents, University, will be looking to create their own club history, and will play on Saturday to win their third consecutive A Grade Premiership.

Both teams are looking forward to playing on the WAFL ground on Saturday in a game that will showcase the best football the WAAFL has to offer.

WAAFL will be live streaming all three Grand Finals from 10am at http://www.waafl.com.au/news-a-events/632-grand-finals-live-streaming.

Grand Finals

A Grade
Wesley Curtin v University - 2.30pm

A Reserves:
Trinity Aquinas v North Beach – 12.15pm

Phil Scott Colts:
Trinity Aquinas v University – 10.00am


Perseverance pays off with grand final for Falcon Guadagnin

Friday, September 20, 2013 - 1:11 PM - by Chris Pike

TOUGH-as-nails West Perth midfielder Matt Guadagnin is one of a host of experienced players who has waited for years for the chance to play in a WAFL grand final that presents this Sunday at Patersons Stadium.

Guadagnin made his league debut in the grand final year of 2002, but as a 19-year-old played just two matches and then missed all of the 2003 premiership year with a knee injury.

However, ever since Guadagnin has been a permanent fixture of the West Perth midfield playing in six finals matches before 2013 without tasting a win and it took until his 161st game with the Falcons for him to taste a win in September that came over Claremont in the second semi-final.

Guadagnin has been the heart and soul of the West Perth side for 10 years now with his unwavering dedication to train and play despite continuing to work on his farm in York, and it is this opportunity to play in a grand final that has continued to spur him on.

The 29-year-old is excited to now be preparing for Sunday's grand final against East Perth but he's sure it means more to share it with long-term teammates Jason Salecic, Ray Bartholomew, Dan Hunt, Chris Keunen, Andrew Strijk and Luke Tedesco if he's selected on return from injury.

"Your goal is obviously to qualify for the finals when you start any season and then once you get there, to qualify for the grand final and if you get there, you don’t want to bloody lose it," Guadagnin said.

"There's probably a couple of guys who have played one or two years longer than they would have if they had success earlier in their career, but the main reason why everyone is here is because we love each other and love the club. That's probably why we play so well as a team and it will be amazing now if we are able to win a grand final."

Another aspect of the club that has spurred Guadagnin on, and continues to, is the West Perth supporters and members.

They waited patiently for a decade to see their team get back into a grand final and the way they celebrated the second semi-final win at Claremont Oval showed Guadagnin just how much the team's success meant to them.

"Our supporters are fantastic. I don’t think many other people in the competition like them, but they come everywhere to watch us," he said.

"They follow us to Moora or any country game, and you can always hear them. There's a core bunch there who come to every game and you can hear them every weekend, and they love the club as much as we do. We play for them and it's just fantastic to see them enjoy our success as much as we do, and they are there step by step with us."

Only one player who took part in the second semi-final win over Claremont had played in a winning WAFL final before, and he is also the only one in the team who will play in the grand final who has played on the biggest WAFL day of the year previously also.

That is current captain Jason Salecic who played in the losing 2002 grand final against East Perth and the premiership win over Subiaco in 2003.

For 10 years now, Salecic's long-time teammates like Guadagnin, Hunt, Bartholomew, Anthony Tsalikis, Strijk, Tedesco and Keunen have desperately wanted to get back to the grand final with their inspirational skipper.

While there are other veteran Falcons like Josh Pearce, Dustin Burns and Dion Fleay who didn’t quite make it to 2013 to be there, and Tsalikis will heartbreakingly miss the clash on Sunday with injury, Guadagnin is glad to be sharing it with Salecic and the other veterans of the club.

"Jase had a chance early in his career and it was an awesome experience for him, but I know he wants to now do it with a group he has played most of his footy with and I can't wait to play a grand final with him," he said.

"We have a core group here that have played a lot of football together so to have success with them will be a massive achievement."

Guadagnin is fully aware that because West Perth is facing East Perth in Sunday's grand final that it adds extra spice for supporters and even staff at both clubs, but for the players and coaching staff they can't let it make things any different than for any other opponent.

He is looking forward to playing in front of a huge crowd, though, and continuing on the form that saw them beat Claremont in the second semi-final to earn a week off and get into the grand final.

"Obviously because it's East Perth it will be a massive crowd given it's a derby and the fans will be very excited, but I don’t think we can get much more excited than by just being in the grand final anyway," Guadagnin said.

"It's an awesome feeling to be in the grand final after getting over the line last week. We went into the game confident of getting the job done, but to actually do it and get into the grand final is a relief knowing we could spend a week getting ready while the other two teams go at it.

"We know that the job is not even half done, though, and the group is really focused on getting out onto the ground now and getting the grand final underway."

West Perth did everything tremendously in the win over Claremont to advance to the grand final aside from kicking straight on goal, but given that hasn’t been an issue all season, Guadagnin doesn’t expect it to be a problem come Sunday either.

"There's no doubt that Claremont is still an unbelievable side and we knew we had to bring our best defensive game," he said.

"We talked about that over the last two or three weeks leading into the finals and we knew that we had to give our best defensive game for the year, and we brought that. To win was such a great feeling.

"Unfortunately we didn’t kick straight and I was one of the main culprits, but that happens sometimes. We aren’t too concerned about that.

"Our main focus was our defensive pressure and we caused so many turnovers that created so many scoring opportunities. I just think it started off on the wrong foot in the first quarter and it was one of those things that just snowballed and everyone seemed to catch the disease."

Despite the fact that he is less than a month from turning 30, Guadagnin's 2013 season has been every bit as good a season as he's had in his 161-game career with the Falcons.

He had a brilliant 2011 season where he led the Sandover Medal before breaking his leg in Round 20 and still finished runner-up in the count that year to Claremont's Luke Blackwell.

However, further complications from that injury saw him struggle at times in 2012 and then have a brief pre-season campaign heading into 2013.

He wasn’t so sure about that when he had a quiet start to the season, but his form since the first couple of rounds this year has been outstanding and he's glad he and the club decided to give him some time off last year in the pre-season now.

"I started the year really slowly in the pre-season and that was something that we talked about in the review of last season," he said.

"I started this year really slowly and I was thinking what we did might have been a mistake, but as the year's gone on I've got fitter and my body is still fresh and I'm still getting a kick. I'm obviously enjoying my footy and can't wait to get out there for the grand final."

For every good story in grand final week, there's always the heartbreaking ones and for West Perth without question that falls to 169-game, five-time leading goalkicking forward Tsalikis who injured his shoulder in Round 23 against East Fremantle and will now miss the grand final.

"It's horrible and you hear stories like that every year. I sort of know what he's going through because I thought when I broke my leg in 2011 I thought the boys were going to at least make a grand final and I was going to miss it, but I ended up making it back for the prelim that year," Guadagnin said.

"It's a horrible feeling for 'Slick' I'm sure and there might be a couple of others who miss out as well. There's not much you can say for the poor buggers, you just have to support them as much as you can."


Dawson proud to lead Royals to first grand final in 11 years

Friday, September 20, 2013 - 11:54 AM - by Chris Pike

BRIAN Dawson might be in his first year as coach of East Perth but has quickly picked up the rivalry his club has with West Perth as he looks to lead the Royals to their first premiership since 2002, and his second in the last four years.

Dawson has had a remarkable four years as a senior coach in the WAFL now never having one of his teams finishing worse off than in a preliminary final.

After coaching Swan Districts' reserves to a premiership in 2006, Dawson took over as league coach at Swans in 2008 taking the black-and-whites to a grand final in 2008, preliminary final in 2009 and then to the premiership in 2010 before stepping down following that triumph.

After two years away from coaching a club, Dawson replaced Tony Micale at East Perth and has now done a tremendous job to get the Royals into the 2013 grand final this Sunday against West Perth at Patersons Stadium.

Dawson has now coached in three Perth derbies this season so has picked up the rivalry with West Perth quickly heading into Sunday's grand final, but more importantly he is just proud and happy for his new club that they are back in a grand final for the first time since 2002.

"I've quickly caught up on the rivalry with three games against them already this year so we've had a good induction to what is coming in the grand final. I would sincerely hope that there is a crowd of 30,000-plus there next week to see what should be a cracking game," Dawson said.

"Claremont have dominated the comp and this would have been their fourth straight grand final so it is good to get a change to those usual teams in the grand finals every now and then.

"But it's just great for the club to be back there because 11 years is a long time and East Perth is a proud and successful club, but 11 seasons between grand finals is one of the club's longest droughts so it's great to help them get back in there."

Two senior players that Dawson always respected from afar, but now has even more respect for having coached them is former skipper Michael Swan, and current co-captain Craig Wulff. Dawson is delighted for both to now get their first opportunity to play in a grand final on Sunday.

"It's fantastic for them and that's why you play the game. Swanny's played 170-odd games and Wulffy 220-odd and they have never played in a grand final," Dawson said.

"It's overdue for those blokes but it's great for everyone. You especially feel really pleased for those sorts of guys, though, because they have been around a long time and it's a great thing to finally get there."

East Perth has continued to improve more and more the longer the 2013 season has gone culminating in likely what was the Royals' best performance all year in last Sunday's 63-point preliminary final win over the two-time reigning premiers Claremont at Claremont Oval.

Two players who Dawson credits with the Royals' improvement who weren't there due to injury in the first half of the year – are Jarrad Oakley-Nicholls and Kyle Anderson.

Oakley-Nicholls has been in good form whether at half-forward, on the wing and most recently off half-back, but Anderson has continued to build his reputation as one of the very best lockdown defenders in the competition.

"He (Anderson) is the bloke who we sorely missed at the start of the season and people can forget about that pretty easily, but we didn’t have Oakley-Nicholls or Anderson for the first eight or 10 games and those two have made a big difference since coming back," he said.

"Anderson is a really quality defender and having the likes of Selwood and Cripps available has allowed us to play Oakley-Nicholls in the back half as well. We also think we have improved overall across the season and you always have the goal to play your last game much better than the first game, and we will need to play even better than we did this week to win."

As for last Sunday's preliminary final win over Claremont, Dawson was certainly surprised by the eventual 63-point margin but is focused on how proud he is of his playing group to win into the Royals' first grand final in 11 years.

"We certainly would not have in our wildest dreams expected to have won by 10 goals, but we were confident that if we brought our best to the table that we could get across the line," he said.

"We knew it would be tough and they have had a great run of the competition in the last few years Claremont and you don't give that up easily. I know they will be bitterly disappointed with the result, but in some senses cycles always come to an end and sometimes it's when you don’t expect it.

"They have really dominated the comp for three or four seasons and it's a bitter pill for them, but great for us because East Perth haven’t been in a grand final for 11 seasons."

It was a tremendous performance by East Perth to beat Claremont with Brendan Lee dominant in the midfield with 31 possessions and 13 clearances while Paul Johnson dominated his ruck battle with Mark Seaby with 26 disposals, 35 hit outs, nine clearances and two goals.

Mat Seal and Josh Smith both kicked four goals with Jamie Cripps adding three, Freddie Clutterbuck two, Michael Swan two and Adam Selwood two while Craig Wulff had 26 touches and Aaron Sweet 21. Dawson couldn’t have been more proud of the efforts of all 22 of his Royals players.

"The boys were fantastic and I couldn’t have been prouder with the way they went about it, and stuck at the task," Dawson said.

"They were challenged a few times by Claremont, particularly in the third quarter when they came at us two or three times and almost levelled up, but the boys were good enough to hold firm, stand up and keep that two or three goal buffer and then break it open just before three quarter-time.

"Our defence went really well and they were helped by the midfield, but individually the backs did their jobs manfully which was great."


The Sunday Times WA Football Volunteer of the Year

Friday, September 20, 2013 - 9:02 AM

East Perth District volunteer Luke McNiece was recognised for a decade of dedicated service when he was named The Sunday Times WA Football Volunteer of the Year at the WAFL’s Sandover Medal count on Monday, September 16.

Mr McNiece was announced as the overall winner from 17 regional and district finalists and more 2114 nominees. He received a trip for two to the AFL grand final and will also march in the Grand Final parade.

Mr McNiece was nominated for the award by Coolbinia Bombers Junior Football Club member Wayne French for his tireless dedication to the club as president, vice president and committee member.

"Luke McNiece is an inspirational leader of our footy club," Mr French said.

"Towards the end of last season, the club suffered its saddest day when our Year 12 captain, very, very sadly, committed suicide.  Luke rose to the occasion and lead all at the club through very dark days. 

"His commitment to the immediate teammates of the player was incredible, organising professional counselling and ensuring these young men were well cared for.  Luke was also instrumental in providing the impetus to the development of the ‘Royals 1Life Round’, a District-wide event to raise awareness about suicide prevention and mental health issues.

"Luke's commitment to driving our junior girls team and our junior Auskick Bomberettes team has also ensured these female teams have been supported well this season and he often attends the games and training sessions.

"Also this year, Luke, with the assistance of the committee, established an inaugural Sunday Mods team.  It was recognised that a number of our mods players were Jewish and observed their religious beliefs by not playing on Saturdays. 

"Luke was instrumental in liaising with the local Jewish School to develop a Sunday Mods team which now enjoys a game on Sunday mornings.  This is a great example of Luke’s leadership and commitment to ensuring we, as a club, can give all boys and girls, regardless of their race, creed or religion a game of footy."

"Last season was the club’s 25th anniversary and Luke also ensured this momentous occasion was a wonderful success," Mr French said.

WA Football Commission Club Development and Coaching Manager Glenn Morley congratulated Mr McNiece on winning the award and emphasized the crucial role that volunteers play at all levels of football.

"There are so many aspects of our game that just wouldn’t happen without the dedication and commitment of our volunteers," Mr Morley said.

"Volunteers are involved at all levels whether it’s in the canteen, umpiring, coaching or driving their kids to the game. The Sunday Times WA Football Volunteer of the Year program aims to elevate the standing of volunteers to that of a star player.

"Just like there are star players and star coaches, we want to recognise star volunteers and it is thanks to The Sunday Times that we can do this."

Award Finalists: 

FINALIST

DISTRICT / REGION

Jack Penniment

Claremont

MarkKerspien

East Fremantle

Luke McNiece

East Perth

Jenni Cocking

Peel

Arthur Ransted

Perth

Tony Mollica

South Fremantle

Rosemary Goodin

Subiaco

Sav Borg

Swan Districts

Lee Mack

West Perth

Gavin Mills

Goldfields

Christine Venkatachalam

Great Southern

Trish McKay

Kimberley

David Stribley

Midlands

Joanne Starling

Mid West

Paul Lott

Pilbara

Julie Fairclough

South West

Peter McWha

Wheatbelt


Sandover Medal a reward for O'Brien's dedication

Thursday, September 19, 2013 - 4:49 PM - by Chris Pike

RORY O'Brien became East Fremantle's first Sandover Medallist in 15 years and the second player to win WA football's most prestigious individual honour as he was rewarded his hard work and dedication to improve his game on Monday night.

O'Brien was always a prolific ball winner in his 92 games with Peel between 2005 and 2010, with a year off in South Australia in 2008 in between, but his game has gone up another game since moving to East Fremantle ahead of the 2011 season.

Team-wise that has also seen him get to play in a WAFL and Foxtel Cup grand final as a massive part of the Sharks' line-up the last three years.

In 63 games in the WAFL for East Fremantle, O'Brien has averaged over 27 possessions while also being a key player in three Foxtel Cup matches in 2013 and winning the 2011 Lynn Medal, and likely the club's fairest and best award this year to go with his two he won with Peel also.

By the end of the count on Monday night, O'Brien had amassed 55 votes to give him the second highest ever tally in Sandover Medal history behind the 58 polled by both Claremont's Kane Mitchell in 2012 and Subiaco's Matt Priddis in 2006.

He averaged over 31 possessions a game in 2013 with the umpires taking a shine to his style of play not only by awarding 62 free kicks while only giving 19 against him, but also awarding him votes in 14 of his 20 matches throughout the season.

Despite the pride he felt in winning the Sandover Medal, the 27-year-old was in shock when announced as the recipient for 2013.

"This was a complete shock. It's such a prestigious award and I never thought my name would go together with it," O'Brien said.

"I was shocked at the first half of the year because I didn’t think I played that great a footy, but obviously the umpire's thought different so I think them for that. To be honest I was nervous all night and I wasn’t expecting to win."

O'Brien didn’t necessarily give himself much chance of winning heading into the count on Monday night with Claremont's Jake Murphy and Mark Seaby, and East Perth's Paul Johnson and Brendan Lee all good chances, but his nerves did rise after a strong start meant he led from the outset.

"I'm not sure when it will sink in, maybe in a couple of years I'm not sure but I'm definitely honoured to be part of that club now," he said.

"I was a little bit nervous coming here but I didn’t expect to win. Jake Murphy and Paul Johnson had outstanding years and Claremont won 17 games and East Perth finished off the season well so I thought those two would be right up there."

O'Brien was always a good midfielder in poor teams in his 92-game career at Peel, but without question he has become fitter and stronger, and worked on developing a more well-rounded game in his three years at East Fremantle.

He credits coach Steve Malaxos and captain Mark McGough for much of that.

"I have to thank the East Fremantle Football Club for taking me on board three years ago. I know it was because they wanted to get Brock and I was the little half that came with him, but I am grateful for the opportunity and it has been tremendous. I have loved my last three years of football," he said.

"I have to say that my coach Steve Malaxos has had a huge influence because he's been very hard on me trying to take my game to another level. Mark McGough, though, has probably been my biggest help. We are so competitive and try to beat each other all the time at training."

While the East Fremantle Football Club and his coaches and teammates mean a lot to O'Brien, he knows he couldn’t be doing on the field what he is without the support of his wife Ebony and the couple's 15-month-old daughter.

"My wife has been through it all with me, bad games and good games, travelling up to East Fremantle while still living Mandurah but I can't thank her enough for her support," O'Brien said.

"The difference between this year and previous years is that we had a baby girl 15 months and she really makes you think there is more to life than football. She has definitely relaxed me a lot more so I take it off to my wife and daughter for being there to support me."


2013 WAFL Grand Final event information

Thursday, September 19, 2013 - 2:15 PM

The WAFL Grand Final is the game of the year that is written into the history books and the one that is remembered long after the final siren.

It is the game that encapsulates the spirit of WAFL football as the game that illustrates the history, tradition and importance of the WAFL competition.

Tickets

Tickets for this match will be on sale as of 9.00am Thursday, 15 August. Available tickets can be purchased from Ticketmaster; or by phoning 1300 135 915.

In 2013, the best WAFL Grand final seats in the house will be available for pre-purchase online. Fans seeking a great seat are encouraged to pre-purchase their tickets to take advantage of the reduced pre-sale prices and avoid the queues on match day.

2013 WAFL Grand Final ticket prices are:

Category

Premium Reserved Seating

(Pre-purchase only)

General Admission Seating 

(Purchase on the day at the gate)

Adult

$30.00

$35.00

Concession

$25.00

$30.00

Child (15 & under, 5 & under free)

$7.00

$10.00

Family (2 x adult & 3 x child)

$58.00

$60.00

Member*

$22.00

$25.00

*Member may be any WAFL club member.

*Members MUST present their membership card with their ticket when entering the gate on event day. Those who are not in possession of a valid WAFL membership card will be sent to the ticket box to upgrade to a full adult ticket.

Tickets are available on event day. In order to avoid queues please ensure you purchase your tickets early.

Gate 8 ticket box: 8.00am

Gate 26 ticket box: 10.45am

Ticket boxes 10, 16, 19 & 24: 12.30pm

Corporate

Patersons Stadium will host a WAFL Grand Final Luncheon to be attended by AFL legen Kevin Sheedy. To attend this special event please download the booking form.

Patrons also have the opportunity to view the game from the best seats in the house. For more information on catered VIP Box or Suites, please click here.

Gates

Gate 8 opens: 8.00am

Gate 26 opens: 10.45am

Gates 10 & 19 open: 12.45pm

Corporate gate opening times: 12.45pm. Gate entry numbers are specified on each customer's ticket.

Schedule of Play

Colts Grand Final: 8.30am

Full-time: Approx 10.45am

Teams: South Fremantle v Claremont

Reserves Grand Final: 11.15am

Full-time: Approx 1.30pm

Teams: South Fremantle v West Perth

League Grand Final: 2.15pm

Full-time: Approx 4.50pm (presentations will be held post match)

Teams: West Perth v East Perth

Road Closures

Road restrictions will be in place on the day for the match. Restricted road closures will commence 1 hour prior to bounce down of the main match and full road closures will be in place from 4th quarter until approximately 30 minutes post match. Full details are available here.

Parking / Carpark Times

Kitchener Park, Market Square and Subiaco FC car parks will be available for public parking for $15 per vehicle. 

Kitchener Park: 7.30am

Market Square: 9.30am

Subiaco FC: 10.00am

Limited ACROD parking is available at all three car parks.

Public Transport

To plan your journey, click here for the Transperth Journey Planner or call the Transperth InfoLine on 13 62 13.

For further information on getting to Patersons Stadium click here.


O'Brien claims 2013 Sandover Medal

Monday, September 16, 2013 - 10:25 PM

East Fremantle midfielder Rory O’Brien claimed the 2013 Sandover Medal at Crown’s Grand Ballroom on Monday night, September 16.

He won the count with a total of 55 votes – 12 ahead of East Perth’s Paul Johnson on 43 and only three behind equal record holders Matthew Priddis (2006) and Kane Mitchell (2012), who each polled 58 votes.

Claremont’s Jake Murphy finished third with 41 votes.

O’Brien gathered more than 30 possessions on 11 occasions this season to lead the league in disposals with a total of 622 and went into the Sandover Medal count among the favourites.

The Sharks’ ball magnet, who also took out this year’s $5000 AAMI WAFL Player of the Year Award, polled votes in 14 rounds, which included five best on ground performances throughout the season.

Johnson and Murphy both polled votes in 11 rounds, with Johnson also recording five best on ground performances and Murphy four.

The Reserves' Prendergast Medal was presented to West Perth’s Frank Stockley and the Colts' Jack Clarke Medal was presented to East Fremantle’s Jacob Green.

The JJ Leonard Medal for coach of the Year went to Claremont’s Marc Webb and Stuart Parry won umpiring’s Montgomery Medal

Claremont also took home the Rodriguez Shield and East Perth’s Josh Smith received the Bernie Naylor Medal as the competition's leading goal kicker.

East Perth District Volunteer Luke McNiece was named WA Football Volunteer of the Year.

LEADERBOARD

55 – Rory O'Brien (EF) 

43 – Paul Johnson (EP) 

41 – Jake Murphy (C) 

36 – Mark McGough* (EF) 

32 – Brendan Lee (EP)    

30 – Aaron Black (WP)

27 – Mitch Banner (SF)

25 – Mark Seaby (C) 

25 – Paul Bevan (P) 

24 – Dayle Garlett (SD)

24 – Mark Hutchings (WP)

23 – Josh Smith (EP)

23 – Jarrod Kayler-Thomson (S)

22 – Luke Blackwell (C)

22 – Andrew Foster (C)

22 – Wayde Twomey (SD)

21 – Andrew Browne (C)

21 – Craig Wulff* (EP)

21 – Shane Nelson (WP)

20 – Bradd Dalziell (EF)

20 – Brendon Jones (PT)

CLICK HERE for all 2013 Sandover Medal Votes


WAFL Preliminary Final Results

Monday, September 16, 2013 - 12:47 AM - by Chris Pike

EAST Perth ended Claremont's recent dominance of the WAFL with a commanding 63-point preliminary final victory at Claremont Oval on Sunday to set up a derby grand final with West Perth next Sunday.

Claremont might have won the last two premierships, played in the last three grand finals and finished on top of the ladder the last four seasons, but the Tigers have now bowed out in straight-sets meaning East Perth and West Perth will meet in a Perth derby grand final for the first time since 2002.

West Perth last week entered its first grand final since 2003 when the Falcons beat Subiaco to win the premiership.

And in Sunday's preliminary final at Claremont Oval, East Perth won its way through to its first grand final since beating West Perth in 2002 to cap off its flag hat-trick.

Claremont might have kicked the first goal of the preliminary final, but East Perth assumed control shortly after with four goals in seven minutes to suddenly lead by 23 points, and still 17 at quarter-time.

Three goals in six minutes in the second quarter brought the Tigers back to within just six points midway through the second term, but the Royals again kicked clear with the last three goals of the first half through Jamie Cripps, Adam Selwood and Mat Seal to be 23 points up at the long break.

Claremont had to find something coming out of half-time and did briefly getting to within five points after a goal to Anton Hamp but that was as close as the Tigers would get.

East Perth answered quickly with four goals in five minutes and then when Freddie Clutterbuck kicked a goal from outside 50 at the 28-minute mark of the third term the Royals were out to a 34-point advantage.

Claremont made a brief run to start the last quarter with Ian Richardson kicking a goal, but he missed another as did Andrew Foster and then ended the Tigers' hopes and East Perth ran rampant with six of the game's last seven goals to win 24.12 (156) to 14.9 (93).

East Perth's Brendan Lee and Paul Johnson are two prime Sandover Medal candidates and led the way into the grand final on Sunday.

Co-captain and midfielder Lee finished with 31 possessions and an incredible 13 clearances while ruckman Johnson had 26 touches, 35 hit outs, nine clearances, seven inside 50s and two goals.

Veteran co-captain Craig Wulff had 26 possessions and eight clearances with Selwood racking up 23 disposals, Aaron Sweet 21 and Seal 20 to go with four goals.

Bernie Naylor Medallist Josh Smith booted another four goals also for the Royals with West Coast's Jamie Cripps adding three and former long-time skipper Michael Swan two.

Defender Kyle Anderson did a solid stopping job on Chad Jones while Marcus White held Paul Medhurst goalless as well.

Luke Blackwell worked tirelessly for Claremont finishing with 32 possessions and seven clearances while captain Andrew Browne returned from injury and was terrific off half-back with 25 disposals.

Ryan Neates gathered 27 touches and Andrew Foster 23 with Jack Bradshaw, Ian Richardson, Chad Jones and Mitch Andrews all kicking two goals each.

West Perth's reserves have now won nine straight matches to qualify for next Sunday's grand final against South Fremantle after beating Perth at Claremont Oval by 42 points.

Perth finished the season as minor premiers, but lost by 91 points against South Fremantle in Round 24 and then again lost to the Bulldogs in the second semi-final and now have also lost the preliminary final to West Perth to be bundled out in straight-sets.

It has been a superb second half of the season now by the Falcons reserves team to see them join their league side in next week's grand final after beating the Demons 14.16 (100) to 9.4 (58) in the preliminary final.

Frank Stockley has been outstanding all season for the West Perth reserves in the ruck and was so again in the preliminary final with 24 possessions, nine marks, 31 hit outs and two goals.

Drew Rohde booted three goals for the Falcons while Corey Chalmers also kicked three but added six behinds as well.

Brayden Antonio added two goals to go with 24 disposals while Aidan Lynch had 23 touches, Joel Latham 20, James Embley 18 and the returning Luke Tedesco 16 in his first game back from a calf injury.

Kristian Egan kicked two goals for Perth with Joel Leeson gathering 22 possessions, Cameron Manuel 20, Kieran Hug 20 (and 10 tackles) and Kane Ransted 17.

The colts preliminary final began the day at Claremont Oval with the Tigers becoming the only team who finished the home and away season as the minor premiers to end up making the grand final.

Claremont's colts lost a second semi-final at home to South Fremantle, but bounced back strongly on Sunday after quarter-time against Subiaco to end up winning 16.13 (109) to 7.7 (49).

The Lions started well having beaten Perth in the first semi-final to qualify for the preliminary final and led the minor premier Claremont by five points at Claremont Oval on Sunday.

However, the Tigers booted three goals to one in the second quarter to lead by 14 points at half-time and then Claremont kicked away in the final term with the only seven goals to end up victorious by 60 points to set up a grand final next Sunday with South Fremantle.

PRELIMINARY FINAL RESULTS
LEAGUE
Claremont 14.9 (93) lost to East Perth 24.12 (156)

RESERVES
Perth 9.4 (58) lost to West Perth 14.16 (100)

COLTS
Claremont 16.13 (109) lost to Subiaco 7.7 (49)


Swan hoping grand final dream eventuates in 2013

Friday, September 13, 2013 - 3:52 PM - by Chris Pike

MICHAEL Swan has been at East Perth for 10 years desperate for the chance of playing in a grand final after his brother became a triple premiership star with the Royals, and the former skipper credits new coach Brian Dawson with providing the chance in Sunday's preliminary final.

Swan arrived at East Perth in 2003 after time with the Sydney Swans with the Royals on the back of a premiership hat-trick of which his older brother David played in all three.

That meant that he had every reason to expect he would get the chance of at least playing in a grand final during his East Perth career, but it hasn’t eventuated over the last decade with Swan so far racking up 169 games including 106 of those in his seven years as an inspirational captain.

Swan might not have the captaincy in 2013, but remains the inspirational leader along with fellow veteran Craig Wulff with East Perth now entering Sunday's preliminary final against Claremont at Claremont Oval with the chance of making a grand final for the first time since 2002.

Wulff will play his 224th game for East Perth on Sunday and Swan his 170th, both without a grand final appearance, but that dream of getting there and belief that it will happen one day has spurred he pair on and now Swan is hopeful that this year could be the time.

"For Wulffy and I to have that chance of playing in a grand final, we would give anything for that and that is what has spurred us on over the past decade. Having that dream is probably what gets you through when you might not be travelling that well as a team or individually with injuries," Swan said.

"That dream and goal that you are chasing to try and win a premiership is what keeps you going and now to have this chance in front of us on Sunday to win into a grand final means a hell of a lot to not just us two, but the whole playing group.

"We are getting a bit of an understanding of what opportunity we do have in front of us and we have prepared really well so far this week. We have been building towards this and we will be giving it our best shot this Sunday."

In his decade at East Perth, Swan has had an interesting array of coaches starting with Andy Lovell before Warren Mahoney, Paul Peos, Glen Bewick, Tony Micale and now as of 2013 former Swan Districts premiership coach Dawson.

Nothing against those previous coaches, but Swan has really enjoyed everything about Dawson's coaching this year.

"Daws has been outstanding this year. His support and education of the players that he has brought in this year has been outstanding. He has a different demeanour to what Tony had but it still is very effective and to take us into a prelim final in his first year has been a great job," Swan said.

"His communication with the younger boys is outstanding and he has really developed the group. We've had a lot of debutants this year, which has been really promising, and Daws has been excellent for the group. He is very calm and keeps a calm and cool head, and explains things very clearly and you know where you stand and what you need to do with Daws. He has done a great job."

Even though his older brother David won three premierships in his 129-game East Perth career, they actually haven’t shared stories about what winning a flag is like but the 32-year-old is hopeful that his third trip to a preliminary final on Sunday will be a positive experience.

"We actually haven’t spoken directly about that in terms of what he experienced playing in the premierships. We have more so spoken about personal things that I want to try and work on to make sure that I am performing at my best to help the team. In terms of tapping into what he experienced and what the feeling was like, we haven’t spoken about that directly really," he said.

"In 2003, which was my first year, we made it to the prelim final and that was against West Perth when they were way too good for us that. Since then we have only made it back to one prelim final, which was 2010, and Swan Districts were good for us again on that day as well. You don’t get these opportunities too often and I feel we definitely have the team to be able to win on Sunday and progress into a grand final."

East Perth earned the chance of playing in the preliminary final by downing Swan Districts in last Sunday's first semi-final in front of over 5000 vocal fans at Steel Blue Oval in a performance Swan was proud of, and contributed strongly in with two goals from 13 possessions.

"It was definitely a really good, solid performance from all our 22 players that played last Sunday because Swans are extremely tough to beat at their home ground," he said.

"They've always got a strong supporter base who come out to watch the game there and they are always very vocal and hard to beat at home, but our second half was really good football. We got the result that we wanted so we move on to this week."

That victory provides East Perth with the chance of winning into the 2013 grand final but Swan is well aware that all it is now is a chance and he's not taking anything for granted having played in losing preliminary finals to West Perth in 2003 and Swan Districts in 2010.

"It is definitely a big opportunity for us and East Perth haven’t been in a grand final since 2002, and no one in the current was part of that premiership," Swan said.

"It is a big opportunity for us to give ourselves the chance to play in a grand final. Everyone is really looking forward to it and everyone is prepared as well as they can be. We are doing everything we can to make sure we are ready to play come Sunday."

Standing in East Perth's way of making the grand final is a Claremont team that has been minor premiers for four straight years, played in three successive grand finals and won the last two premierships before losing last week's second semi-final at home to West Perth.

"We will be expecting Claremont to really come out and give it a red hot go obviously but we did watch a little bit of vision of last week and West Perth's pressure was outstanding," Swan said.

"That obviously went a long way to them winning that game so we will need to apply a similar sort of pressure to give ourselves a chance of having a win against them."

The preliminary final is one of vastly contrasting grand final experienced teams.

Claremont will have 13 premiership players in its line-up while East Perth has no players who have previously played in a WAFL grand final let alone in a premiership side. However, Swan thinks both teams can take the positives from that heading into the game.

"From our point of view, our hunger will definitely be there just because we haven’t been there before," he said.

"The hunger and desperation will definitely be there from our group, but in saying that they obviously have a lot of guys who have been there and done it before, so they know what it takes.

"You can look at both sides of the coin and use it as a positive for them and for us, but we will just be very desperate to do what we need to do to get the win."

If East Perth does beat Claremont on Sunday to make the grand final, it will set up what is sure to be an incredible decider with arch-rivals West Perth, but Swan is fully aware if anyone at the Royals is thinking about the grand final opponent already then the Tigers will make them pay.

"It may sound cliché, but we really just have to focus on this Sunday and getting the job done because if for a second we look ahead to next week to a grand final then we will get caught short and won't beat Claremont," Swan said.

"All we can focus on is performing to the very best of our ability this Sunday and then everything from then will take care of itself. We can't be looking ahead a week in advance and we just have to focus completely on Claremont and pay them full respect. They have won the last two premierships and have been in the past three grand finals so we know they are going to be a huge challenge."

Swan has played just the 13 games this season after injuring a shoulder in the first half of the campaign, but that had ended up being a positive in the sense that he is now fresh and firing come finals time. What his future holds in 2014 isn't something he has decided on yet though.

"I did injure my shoulder early in the year and it sort has been a blessing in disguise a little," Swan said.

"Now I am feeling pretty fresh and ready, and raring to go when at the past at this time of the year I have been pretty fatigued and worn down. I haven’t made a decision on that yet. I will weigh that up once the season finishes."


WAFL Preliminary Final Preview

Friday, September 13, 2013 - 11:01 AM - by Chris Pike

CLAREMONT and East Perth have one last chance to enter the WAFL grand final for 2013 when the Tigers host the Royals in Sunday's preliminary final at Claremont Oval.

West Perth is already into the grand final awaiting the winner of the Claremont and East Perth clash at Claremont Oval on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the colts preliminary final will start the day at Tigerland with Claremont taking on Subiaco for the right to face South Fremantle in the grand final.

And in the reserves, South Fremantle is already in the grand final awaiting the winner of Sunday's clash between Perth and West Perth.

LEAGUE: CLAREMONT V EAST PERTH – CLAREMONT OVAL, SUNDAY 2.15PM
Selected teams

Claremont and East Perth have taken very different paths to Sunday's preliminary final, have very different recent grand final histories and have not faced one another in a final of any type since the 2003 first semi-final.

Claremont lost its first ever final at Claremont Oval last Sunday when West Perth advanced to the grand final at the Tigers' expense, with Claremont also losing their first second semi-final since 2004.

The Tigers had beaten Subiaco in 2007, Swan Districts in 2010, West Perth in 2011 and Swan Districts in 2012 in their previous four second semi-final appearances, all held at Claremont Oval.

However, East Perth comes into the preliminary final in winning form having beaten Swan Districts by 28 points in last Sunday's first semi-final.

East Perth has not played in a WAFL grand final since 2002, the last of a premiership hat-trick, so is trying to break that drought by winning Sunday's preliminary final against a Claremont team that is far from a stranger to grand final day over the last decade.

Claremont has played in grand finals in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012 since East Perth's last appearance on the big day with the Tigers losing the first four of those, and winning the last two.

Only one Tigers player has taken part in each one of those, David Crawford, and the forward-turned-defender just happens to play his 200th WAFL game in Sunday's preliminary final after he began his career in 2002.

Meanwhile it has been slim pickings for East Perth since 2002. The Royals have only won three finals in that time, first semi-finals in 2003, 2010 and last week, and not advanced past a preliminary final which they have reached twice previously before this year.

Finals in history between Claremont and East Perth have been far from common occurrences as well.

The last was the 2003 first semi-final that was won by East Perth by 29 points and prior to that the 2001 second semi which was also won by the Royals by 72 points.

There has only ever been one previous preliminary final between the Tigers and Royals, and that was way back in 1939 when Claremont prevailed by six points.

The last time the two met in a grand final was 1996 in a classic when Claremont won in a controversial finish by just two points.

All in all, Claremont and East Perth have met in only 11 finals in history heading into this Sunday's preliminary final which will be the first between the two teams ever at Claremont Oval. It's actually the first final played between the Tigers and Royals not at Subiaco Oval.

This Sunday's teams have a vast difference in terms of grand final and premiership experience as well.

Claremont will have nine dual premiership players from the last two years and another four who played in one of triumphs in 2011 and 2012.

East Perth, on the other hand, does not have a single player in its line-up who has previously played in a WAFL grand final let alone having won a premiership.

However, the Royals do have an AFL premiership player with West Coast from 2006, Adam Selwood, and a triple-premiership winning forward from VFL club North Ballarat, Josh Smith, so they aren’t a team totally foreign to tasting success.

There will be fascinating battles all over the field on Sunday without doubt highlighted by the ruck clash between Claremont's Mark Seaby and East Perth's Paul Johnson.

Claremont's midfield of Jake Murphy, Luke Blackwell, Andrew Foster, Ryan Neates and Trinity Handley will also have an enthralling duel with East Perth's Brendan Lee, Craig Wulff, Mat Seal, Jamie Cripps, Selwood and Freddie Clutterbuck.

Both teams have strong forward-lines as well with Claremont led by Chad Jones, Ian Richardson, Paul Medhurst, Anton Hamp and Jack Bradshaw, and East Perth by Smith, Scott Lycett, Michael Swan, Jarrad Oakley-Nicholls, Dean Cadwallader and Arthur Bennell.

Big changes from last week's teams won't be the order of the day either with Claremont likely to make just the one change with captain Andrew Browne returning to replace Nick Winmar while East Perth is likely to go in with the same line-up which beat Swan Districts.

RESERVES: PERTH V WEST PERTH – CLAREMONT OVAL, SUNDAY 11.35AM
Selected teams

Perth finished the reserves season as the minor premiers but now is facing the prospect of being eliminated in straight-sets against a West Perth side that has been in hot form in the second half of the season.

Both teams have plenty of league-calibre players in their line-ups as well meaning that it is sure to be a high-quality reserves preliminary final.

Perth's reserves finished on top of the ladder with a 13-7 record, the same as South Fremantle and East Perth, but took top spot thanks to a superior percentage. West Perth was a game further back and finished fourth at 12-8.

Perth might have lost its first game of 2013 to Peel, but the Demons then went on a six-game winning run before West Perth beat them by 10 points in Round 10 at Arena Joondalup.

The Demons went on to win three more straight after that before coming up short against grand finalists South Fremantle in Round 15.

Another three-game winning run followed but Perth came into the finals having lost four of its last five games including another loss to West Perth in Round 21 and a thumping 91-point defeat at the hands of South Fremantle in the final round.

Perth then fought back hard in the last quarter of last Sunday's second semi-final, but ended up falling five points short of South Fremantle to now need to advance to the grand final the hard way.

Perth's form might have dropped off in the second half of the year, but West Perth's has done the opposite.

The Falcons lost their first three games and six of their first seven to be struggling on a 1-6 record after Round 8.

Things began to click with the win over Perth in Round 10 though. The Falcons then didn’t lose a game for the rest of the season after losing to Swan Districts in Round 15.

West Perth finished the season with wins over Peel, South Fremantle, East Perth, Peel, Perth, East Fremantle and Swan Districts heading into the first semi-final derby with East Perth last Sunday at Claremont Oval.

West Perth had to come from behind against East Perth, but the Falcons booted five goals to three in the final quarter to beat the Royals by nine points and advance to the preliminary final.

Joel Leeson, Brad Fry, Joel Houghton, Kieran Hug, Matthew Hunt, Jarrad Irons, David Johnston, Joel Kalajzic, Mitchell Lleyendekkers, Michael Mather, Kane Ransted and Reese Richardson have all shown good abilities for Perth at league level and will line-up on Sunday.

West Perth isn’t short on talent, though, with plenty of eyes on league vice-captain and 104-game defender Luke Tedesco who returns from a calf injury desperate to put in a strong showing to put his name up for selection in the Falcons' league grand final next week.

Brayden Antonio, James Batterham, Matt Johnson, Ben McNamara, Luke Meadows, Joe Morrow, Kris Shannon and Frank Stockley will also play for the Falcons on Sunday having played in the West Perth league side during 2013.

COLTS: CLAREMONT V SUBIACO – CLAREMONT OVAL, SUNDAY 9.05AM
Selected teams

Subiaco might have won six games fewer than Claremont during the home and away season of the 2013 colts campaign, but the Lions have good reason to head into Sunday's preliminary final confident of an upset at Claremont Oval.

Claremont finished the season as minor premiers with an imposing 18-2 record and massive percentage of over 180, but the Tigers came up short last Sunday at home against the two-time defending premiers South Fremantle.

The Bulldogs are now through to the 2013 grand final on the hunt for a third successive colts premiership awaiting the winner of this Sunday's preliminary final clash between the Tigers and Lions.

Subiaco just managed to secure fourth position in the final round of the season setting up a first semi-final last Sunday against Perth at Bassendean's Steel Blue Oval.

The Lions then turned on an unbelievable first quarter against the Demons kicking nine goals to nil to set up the eventual 52-point victory.

If Subiaco is able to replicate anything close to that form on Sunday, then the Tigers could be in very real jeopardy of going out in straight sets after a dominant home and away season.

Claremont, though, lost just twice the whole of the season with the first defeat coming at the hands of Peel Thunder by 23 points in Round 13 and then against South Fremantle by 51 points in Round 16.

The Tigers then finished the home and away season with six straight wins before losing to South Fremantle by 23 points in last Sunday's second semi-final.

Subiaco and Claremont met three times during the season with the Tigers winning on all three occasions – by 59 points in Round 5, 46 in Round 11 and 28 in Round 19.


Tiger Crawford reaches 200 games in preliminary final

Friday, September 13, 2013 - 1:23 AM - by Chris Pike

DAVID Crawford had every reason to expect his 200th WAFL game would be in the 2013 grand final but last Sunday's upset loss means it will take place in this Sunday's preliminary final as the 30-year-old looks to get through to what will be the seventh grand final of his career.

Claremont lost its first ever final at Claremont Oval last Sunday in the second semi-final against West Perth and it's also the first final of any type the Tigers have lost since losing the 2010 grand final to Swan Districts by a point.

The Tigers had finished the home and away season as minor premiers for a fourth straight year as well and with West Perth having not won a final in 10 years, Claremont was expected to win through to a fourth straight grand final.

However, West Perth had other ideas winning by four points meaning that Claremont will now host East Perth in this Sunday's preliminary final at Claremont Oval with the winner to go on to take on the Falcons in the 2013 grand final.

Crawford, though, knows East Perth will be tough to get past and he especially will need to work together in the defence to keep Royal forwards Josh Smith, Scott Lycett, Michael Swan, Mat Seal, Jarrad Oakley-Nicholls and Dean Cadwallader quiet.

"It's obviously disappointing but the good thing is that we have a second chance. We just have to regroup, watch the tape and look forward to East Perth next week," Crawford said.

"We have seen a few teams go on and win grand finals after losing the second semi so we know it can happen without needing to go straight through. We felt that ourselves when Swans did it in 2010 so it's certainly unachievable.

"It will be a huge job and I guess we will watch some tape during the week to have a look at those potentially match-winning forwards that East Perth has, but that's an exciting challenge for us defenders."

Claremont made uncharacteristic mistakes largely due to West Perth's pressure in the second semi-final and Crawford hopes that the Tigers are better for the run this Sunday, but he also knows East Perth will be coming in full of confidence after beating Swan Districts in the first semi-final.

"Finals footy is a bit quicker and I guess a few of the guys haven’t played too many senior finals but having said that, East Perth will be better for the run in finals as well so it's going to be pretty hot next week with a grand final spot up for grabs," Crawford said.

"Obviously we knew they would come out pretty hard and they did that. Their tackling pressure was a lot better than ours and they ended up with a lot more shots on goal.

"Luckily for us they weren’t putting them through, but they certainly played a better brand of footy than we did and that's why they won the game."

While Crawford is firmly focused on helping Claremont win through to the grand final on Sunday, he can't shy away from the fact that he is proud to become just the eighth Tiger to reach 200 games.
"It is a great honour to have been able to play 200 games for Claremont but it's something that you will more look back on in five or 10 years time when you come down and watch the boys play, and reflect on being a 200-game player of this club," Crawford said.

"But for now all the focus is on playing well in the finals and trying to beat East Perth now to make a grand final."

Crawford's career at Claremont began in the league side in 2002 but it wasn’t until 2004 when he cemented his spot.

He went on to play in the grand final sides of 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2010 as a forward. He remained a permanent forward until midway through the 2011 season and over that time he played 143 games and kicked 241 goals.

However, then coach Simon McPhee thought swapping Beau Wilkes and Crawford around to the opposite end of the ground could work and it certainly did, with Claremont going on to win the 2011 premiership.

That came after Crawford had played in four losing grand finals and then he remained in the back-line with the Tigers claiming a second flag in 2012 and he has stayed there again leading the way for the defence in 2013.

While he always saw himself as a forward, he actually now feels right at home in the back-line.

"There had been a few pre-seasons where I did play a few games down back but always when the season started I went back forward, but I have actually enjoyed going down back the last couple of years. It's probably given me a new lease on life and I've really enjoyed it," Crawford said.

"I guess when you play a lot of footy in the forward-line you get to read the play coming towards you and you know what a forward does, and where they lead so that now helps me as a backman. It helps me to read the play as a backman so I can know when to stay with my man and drop off to help out my teammates.

"Our back-line has been good and we've been lucky to keep a few senior guys together down back and that helps a lot. By working together you get to know how each person plays and obviously Blando has been pretty handy coming back into the side helping us with his ball use. It's enjoyable playing down there with the guys we have."

Crawford now feels like the leader of the back-line where he is forming a strong bond with James Thomson, Jesse Laurie, captain Andrew Browne, Aaron Holt and more recently John Williams and Blake Anderson.

"I do enjoy being a leader now and helping the younger guys out. I try to do as much of that as I can and it is good to then see them develop and some of them like Tommy Lee have even been able to get back into the AFL," he said.

"Obviously winning the premierships is always nice, but even more so what I have enjoyed is the people you get to meet. Early on I had guys like Anthony Jones, Jaxon Crabb and Brad Wira who taught me the ropes and over the last few years I've enjoyed being able to help develop the younger guys and being able to talk to guys like Aaron Holt and Blando to pass on some advice from what I've learned over the years. You enjoy that aspect and you enjoy seeing the team develop."

Despite now having almost played 200 games, in six grand finals and being 30 years of age, 2013 saw another first for Claremont when he played for WA in the state's first win over Victoria since 1991.

That was his first appearance for his state and he loved every minute of it.

"I loved playing state footy, it was very enjoyable and it was obviously nice winning against Victoria," he said.

"That was something that I didn’t expect at the start of the year, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was great to win as well. It's something I will always look back on fondly."

Crawford's 2013 season had an interesting vacation when he went with his wife Claire's family to Europe on a prearranged trip meaning he missed three games before a rare reserves appearance in Round 22 upon return.

However, he has been back now for the last three weeks and isn’t sure about playing on next year or not yet, but if the result is another premiership in two weeks time then if he does play on he might look to book in another late season trip for 2014.

"It was prearranged last October and it was one of the things that was always going to happen, and it was part of the agreement in my playing this year. It was my Claire's family holiday so it was something I didn’t want to miss out on and it did actually freshen me up," Crawford said.

"I saw a few photos of the boys playing at Leederville against Subi in a mud heap while I was over in 30-degree heat. It has freshened me up and to miss those few colder weeks of the winter wasn’t the worst thing in the world and it's helped me be raring to go now at this time of the year.

"I haven't even thought that far ahead, we will worry about the finals first and then think about whether I play next year or not."


Salecic ready to lead Falcons into grand final

Friday, September 13, 2013 - 1:01 AM - by Chris Pike

JASON Salecic was just a teenager when he became a premiership player with West Perth in 2003 but now he remains the only Falcon to have played in a grand final as he leads the club into the 2013 decider.

Salecic was just 19 when West Perth beat Subiaco in the 2003 grand final with players like Kim Rigoll, Callum Chambers, Simon Duckworth, Glen Britten, Brendon Fewster, Steve Trewhella, Brendon Logan and Brett Cousins who he looked up to and were nearing the end of their careers.

Now 10 years later and it is Salecic who is the captain of the West Perth Football Club, is a premiership player and a great of the Falcons having now played 211 games, seven times for WA and having won a Breckler Medal.

Despite Matt Guadagnin having played 161 WAFL games, Ray Bartholomew 152, Dan Hunt 150, Andrew Strijk 132, Chris Keunen 129, Jordan Jones 83, Jay van Berlo 78, Steven Browne 70, Mark Hutchings 69 and Aaron Black 62, none have played in a grand final before.

In fact, prior to Sunday's second semi-final win over Claremont at Claremont Oval, West Perth had not played in a winning final since the 2003 grand final so it was a first for all of those with the Falcons aside from Salecic to take part in a winning finals team in league football.

Salecic has been an inspirational captain with West Perth since 2008 and while he's not the most outspoken player to lead a club, he leads by example and that's what he aims to do heading into the grand final.

"It's just what comes with footy I suppose. If you hang around long enough you become the aging man and the guy the younger players look to for some leadership," Salecic said.

"Whether they look up to me or not doesn’t matter, what I do is do everything I can to encourage them to do the right things and hopefully lead by example."

Salecic certainly hasn’t forgotten the 2003 premiership but feels that if this year's grand final turns out victorious it could be even more special considering it has taken 10 years to get back there, and because he will be getting there with a group of players he has spent years playing alongside.

"I don’t think you ever forget those moments. I absolutely remember it. I was a bit younger and I came up and played with a lot of older guys who I didn’t end up playing a lot of footy with, but they are all great mates now and greats of the club," Salecic said.

"It probably is a little bit more special now to be in a grand final with a lot of these guys in this current team who I've played the majority of my career with. We will now be doing everything we can to make some more memories.

"I'm fairly lucky that I was around at that time in 2003 and got the opportunity to play in that game, and these guys have now been around for such a long time and that is one thing that when you finish your career you want your best mates to feel what you felt. Hopefully now if we do everything right in the grand final that becomes a reality."

Despite the fact that West Perth hadn’t won a final since 2003 and had lost all six finals it participated in, the culture of the club and closeness of the playing group was enough reason for the experienced players like Salecic, Guadagnin and Hunt to continue to play on.

"I don’t think you stick around just to win a premiership, the love of the club is a big part of it as well," he said.

"Obviously everyone wants to be successful, but the guys who have played a lot of footy here it's because they love the place and love playing with each other.

"We are good mates away from the club as well, and that includes the younger blokes. We are a close group and we pride ourselves on that within our football club."

Salecic has been one of the very best and most consistent WAFL players over the last decade with his leadership, ball winning ability, hardness at the contest and outstanding finishing making him a cut above most.

He had never played less than 18 games in a season between 2004 and 2012, but this year has been tough with an on-going hamstring injury meaning he missed half the season.

The 29-year-old has been trying to play catch up since, but has put together seven straight games now to be feeling good heading into the grand final.

"I've been putting in a lot of work into my preparation after missing 12 weeks of the season, and 10 games," he said.

"I was always playing catch up because of that, but I put in a fair effort over the pre-season which held me in good stead. I felt good out there this week and hopefully I've got another game left in me."

West Perth admittedly has changed its game plan significantly in 2013 and that led to a 13-7 record in the home and away season to finish second on the ladder to book in a second semi-final clash with Claremont.

Despite Claremont going in as warm favourites having never lost a final at Claremont Oval and having won the previous three second semis to go straight into the grand final, but West Perth was the better side all afternoon with its huge pressure and intensity a standout.

However, the Falcons couldn’t finish in front of goal and kicked 11.21 for the day, but that ended up being four points good enough to secure the memorable win at Tigerland.

"We have worked on a lot of things throughout the year to get our structures right, and the boys stuck to that all day. Communication is the most important thing to get everything right to make sure we are in a position to win games, and that worked well out there," he said.

"All day we felt like we were playing pretty well, but we missed a lot of opportunities and that made it a bit harder for ourselves. We have taken confidence now that we can match it with the better sides and whoever we play in the grand final we know we have to bring that game, and if we do that anything is a chance of happening.

"We know that Claremont are a good side but we came in pretty confident even though we had lost our last two games. We felt that we had the preparation necessary to play well and give us a chance to play in the grand final, and that's what happened.

"Getting into the grand final is one thing and it's a good feeling to get there, but we know we have to win it now and that's an even better feeling. We just have to do the right things over the next couple of weeks and take it from there."

Salecic certainly noticed the West Perth faithful who was out in full force making up the majority of the almost 3000 crowd at Claremont Oval in the second semi-final.

"Everyone gets excited and around finals time in footy it's when everyone enjoys it. It was great to see so many of our supporters there and get behind us, and you could really hear them when we ran out and throughout the game," he said.

"They were up and about and enjoyed the win afterwards. Their support gives us that little bit extra, but we have that belief inside ourselves that even if we had no support, which won't happen because of the tradition of our football, we will go out there and give it everything we can."

Like in any grand final side, there will be selection dilemmas and heartbreak. The toughest of all this year for West Perth will be the absence of five-time leading goalkicker and 169-game veteran Anthony Tsalikis after requiring a shoulder reconstruction after going down in Round 23.

If experienced defenders Michael Pettigrew and Luke Tedesco also prove their fitness two players from the second semi-final winning team could end up incredibly unlucky to miss out on the grand final.

"It's really unfortunate for someone like 'Slick' who will miss out because he's had to have an operation and I really feel for guys like him who have worked so hard, and been around for such a long time only for an injury to come along meaning he misses out on something like this," Salecic said.

"Obviously Pettigrew and Tedesco will be doing everything they can to get back into the side as well so that will make it an interesting build-up."


O’Keefe wins C.J Jamieson Medal

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - 10:39 AM

TRINITY Aquinas player Preston O’Keefe won the WA Amateur Football League’s A Grade Fairest and Best C.J Jamieson Medal at the annual presentation dinner at Crown Perth on Monday September 9.

Held in front of more than 860 guests, the Medal Presentation Dinner celebrates the WA Amateur Football League’s Fairest and Best players across its 24 grades.

All grades from B to E4 were presented with their medals on the night, culminating in the C.J Jamieson Medal being awarded to O’Keefe.

O’Keefe polled a total of 23 votes throughout the season, six ahead of Brendan Chen of Fremantle CBC and seven ahead of Abdulrahim Rohizat of Swan Athletic.

The victory will be bitter-sweet for Trinity Aquinas who have just been eliminated from the A Grade Grand Finals, but have secured their spot in both the A Reserves and Phil Scott Colts Grand Final.

West Coast Cowan’s Guy Boudville was awarded his second B Grade WA Amateur Football League Fairest and Best, following his 2007 B Grade Fairest and Best.

Other award winners on the night included Giuseppe Lenzo of Wanneroo – winner of the C1 Fairest and Best, and Mark Gilhome who capped off a fantastic season at Quinns District winning the C2 award. C3 Fairest and Best went to Ellenbrook’s Shea Jenkins, with the C4 award won by Ryan Stewart of Secret Harbour.

The A Grade Leading Goal Kicker award was won by Mount Lawley’s David McKinlay who bagged 55 goals for the season, with the B Grade Leading Goal Kicker being awarded to Stephen Martin from Hamersley Carine who claimed 70 goals.

Also presented on the night were the senior and colts Champion Club awards – given to the fairest and most successful clubs throughout the season.

The Ron Webster Memorial Champion Club award was won by Quinns District, while University won the Tom Naylor award for Champion Colts Club.

North Beach’s Joshua Stott won the LA Tetley award as the best player in the 2013 West Coast Eagles State Amateur under 23’s program, High Wycombe’s Julie Harrison capped off a wonderful night by winning the Administrator of the Year award and Wanneroo’s Bradley Trpchev was awarded the Ken Armstrong Senior Community Coach of the Year.

2013 F&B SUMMARY

A

Preston

O'Keefe

Trinity Aquinas

AR

Wade

Hughes

Swan Athletic

B

Guy

Boudville

West Coast Cowan

BR

Owen

Thomas

North Fremantle

C1

Giuseppe

Lenzo

Wanneroo

C1R

David

Deluca

Gosnells

C2

Mark

Gilhome

Quinns Districts

C2R

Christian

De Lacy

Swan Valley

C3

Shea

Jenkins

Ellenbrook

C3R

Brett

Robertson

Noranda

C4

Ryan

Stewart

Secret Harbour

C4R

Bodie

Bykerk

Osborne Park

D

Simon

Bycroft

Kalamunda

DR

Dean

Prebble

Fremantle CBC

E1

Anthony

Pollard

Rossmoyne

E2

Shannon

Lyndon

Coolbellup

E3

Angus

Henderson

Collegians

E4

Samuel

Holder

Forrestdale

PSC

Tim

Rose

Collegians

DBC

Scott

Price

Wembley

IDC

Matthew

Mant

Kingsley

LKC

Tyson

Bowman

Warnbro Swans

WCC

Alexander

King

Carlisle

Jamie

McEwen

Noranda

Joshua

Narrier

Belmont Districts

BJC

Kieran

Mooney

North Fremantle

A GOAL KICKER

David

McKinlay

Mount Lawley AFC

55 goals

B GOAL KICKER

Stephen

Martin

Hamersley Carine

70 goals

Tetley

Joshua

Stott

North Beach

Coach

Brad

Trpchev

Wanneroo

Administrator

Julie

Harrison

High Wycombe AFC