ROUND 14 of the 2012 WAFL season looms a massive weekend with Swan Districts and East Perth battling over top spot, West Perth and Subiaco looking to close in on the top-four and there is some big milestones to celebrate along the way.
Three of the four matches will be on Saturday afternoon with Swan Districts hosting East Perth at Bassendean's Steel Blue Oval, Subiaco facing Claremont at Leederville's Medibank Stadium and West Perth and East Fremantle heading to the country to do battle at Kalannie.
Then on Sunday, two teams desperate for a win South Fremantle and Peel Thunder face off at Fremantle Oval. Perth has the bye.
SWAN DISTRICTS (9-2, 1st) v EAST PERTH (8-1-2, 2nd) – STEEL BLUE OVAL, SATURDAY 2.10PM
Top spot goes on the line on Saturday at Steel Blue Oval in potentially the biggest match of the WAFL season as Swan Districts hosts East Perth.
Swans have lost just twice this season and not since the Round 8 loss to East Perth in Manjimup. The black-and-whites have won five straight games since then by an average of 46 points to now be sitting on a 9-2 record and to be sitting in prime position for the minor premiership.
That has been a massive turnaround from where the 2010 premiers were last year. Swan Districts won just six games in 2011, but had a massive pre-season and with everyone recommitted to the cause, the results have so far been obvious.
East Perth, though, is having an equally impressive and exciting season. The Royals lost their first two games of the season to Claremont and West Perth, but only by a combined 12 points and they have not lost a game since.
East Perth won seven games on the trot leading into the WA Day derby where they stormed home against West Perth from 40 points down to secure the draw.
Then they staged another miraculous comeback the next week to beat Claremont by two points and last week, East Perth thumped South Fremantle by 59 points for its first win at Fremantle Oval since 2003.
Now the winner of Saturday's game will sit atop the WAFL ladder after 14 rounds and be in strong position to take out the minor premiership for 2012, and could very well take on the title of premiership favourites.
And just as if the top-of-the-table clash wasn’t big enough already, it's also the 150th game with the Royals for inspirational co-captain Michael Swan as he earns life membership at the club.
It is not as though Swan Districts needs some key players to return given the black-and-whites sit atop the ladder at present having won five straight games, but co-captain Josh Roberts could be back from his broken hand with talented young defender Jarrad Blight also likely to return.
East Perth loses Fremantle big man Zac Clarke after his 26 possessions last week in his only game of the season for the Royals, but have a more than able replacement to help Paul Johnson in the ruck in the form of Tim Martin.
Clarke's Fremantle teammates Jayden Pitt and Dylan Roberton are also out of the team that beat South Fremantle at Fremantle Oval last Saturday, but the Royals have some handy inclusions as well.
Nick Kommer and Brett Eades missed last week through suspension and return to face Swans, with Kyle Anderson and Brett Dobson also pushing for selection. Joe Boys is a chance to make his debut in the biggest WAFL game of the season to date.
SUBIACO (5-6, 6th) v CLAREMONT (7-4, 3rd) – MEDIBANK STADIUM, SATURDAY 2.10PM
Subiaco could help close the gap between it and third and fourth place with a win over Claremont at home on Saturday, but the Tigers will be just as motivated to come back with a victory as well.
Subiaco has had a topsy-turvy season to date having won its first four games and then losing six straight leading into last Saturday game with East Fremantle at East Fremantle Oval.
However, the Lions won by a goal to continue their recent domination of the Sharks to maintain touch with the top-four. They currently sit two games behind third-placed Claremont and fourth-placed East Fremantle, so a win on Saturday will put them right back in the hunt for a finals spot.
Claremont, though, will itself want to maintain touch with the top-two teams while also avoid getting in danger of slipping outside of the four altogether.
Currently, the reigning premiers sit on a 7-4 record to be in third position, but before last week's thumping Foxtel Cup win over Mt Gravatt on the Gold Coast the Tigers had suffered two tough losses to Peel Thunder and East Perth.
Claremont currently sits six points behind second-placed East Perth and eight behind first-placed Swan Districts, while being ahead of fourth-placed East Fremantle by percentage and six ahead of fifth-placed West Perth, so the Tigers desperately need to get the win on Saturday.
Subiaco finally got back on the winner's list last Saturday at East Fremantle Oval and coach Chris Waterman would be delighted to be able to go into this week's clash with Claremont with no forced changes.
With no outs at this stage, only Rhett Kerr, Rowen McDonnell and Myles Smythe are fighting for a spot back in the line-up.
There are massive changes at Claremont, though, with Fremantle's Alex Silvagni, West Coast's Lewis Stevenson and Anton Hamp, dangerous half-forward Alroy Gilligan and ruckman Mitch Andrews all going out of the side that two weeks ago lost heartbreakingly to East Perth after the siren.
Coming into the team is a host of important players, most notably Andrew Ruck for the first time since he injured his knee in Round 3 last year. The ruckman has been building form in the reserves, played in the Foxtel Cup win over Mt Gravatt last week and is a welcome returnee.
Rory Walton has played 102 league games with Claremont, but not one since the 2010 grand final after taking a year off in 2011. He also had worked back into form in the reserves, did well last week in the Foxtel Cup and is a good chance of playing on Saturday.
Andrew Foster returned from injury in the Foxtel Cup last week as did Jake Murphy, and both will take on the Lions on Saturday with James Thomson, Aaron Holt, Tom Lee and Alistair Gillespie also trying to breaking back into a strong Claremont line-up.
WEST PERTH (5-1-5, 5th) v EAST FREMANTLE (7-4, 4th) – KALANNIE, SUNDAY 2.10PM
West Perth and East Fremantle head off for a country clash in Kalannie on Saturday and it's a crucial game for both team's finals chances.
West Perth has now won two of its last three games with the other being a draw with East Perth, so the Falcons are working their way into some form this season and now can go one step closer to a top-four berth with a win over East Fremantle on Saturday.
However, the game is just as crucial for East Fremantle who is looking to keep West Perth away from its fourth position.
Currently, the Sharks sit on a 7-4 record to be in fourth position and that has them a game and-a-half ahead of the Falcons at present so Saturday's game not only is a treat for the country fans coming along to watch, but it's crucial to the finals hopes of both teams.
Precious little has separated both teams over the past decade as well. Neither side has won a final since West Perth claimed the 2003 premiership and in 21 matches against each other since then, West Perth has won 11 and East Fremantle 10.
A lot of them have been tight affairs as well with an average margin of just 19.6 points but that is seriously boosted by a 90-point win for West Perth back in Round 19, 2009.
Outside of that blowout, no game has been decided by more than 48 points and seven of them by under 10 points. East Fremantle has won thrillers in 2004 by five points, 2005 by nine, 2008 by five, 2010 by three and in Round 9 this year by two.
West Perth has also had its share of tight wins over the Sharks winning in 2005 by a point and 2007 by five. East Fremantle has also got the best of recent meetings having won five of the last seven clashes between the two evenly matched teams.
West Perth has been in strong form of late to be building some momentum leading into the second half the season, but one problem is that Kepler Bradley, Andrew Strijk and Shane Nelson have all been a big part of the Falcons' revival.
All three are named as outs at this stage for the trip to Kalannie. Among those pushing for selection are Matt Fowler, Anton Saylor, Josh Donaldson, Frank Stockley, Alex Elisseou and Joe Morrow.
East Fremantle also has some big outs with West Coast pair Mitch Brown and Koby Stevens, as well as Fremantle rookie Sam Menegola going out of the side that lost to Subiaco by a goal last week.
A host of players are looking to break into the East Fremantle line-up including Corey Yeo, Tyler Chalwell, Brad Cooper, Lewis Fasolo, Jayden Schofield and Aiden Tropiano.
SOUTH FREMANTLE (3-8, 7th) v PEEL THUNDER (2-9, 9th) – FREMANTLE OVAL, SUNDAY 2.10PM
South Fremantle and Peel Thunder have won just five games between them so far this season and will be desperate to not drop another one when they clash on Sunday at Fremantle Oval.
It has been a massive week for Peel as well since last Saturday's 91-point loss at home to Swan Districts.
That came after an equally disappointing 87-point defeat to East Fremantle the previous week and that proved too much for the board even though the Thunder had beaten reigning premiers Claremont at Claremont Oval only two weeks prior.
As a result, Peel sacked well-respected coach Trevor Williams and replaced him with Mark Moody for the rest of the 2012 season.
Peel heads into Sunday's game with South Fremantle on a 2-9 record to be on the bottom of the ladder, but South Fremantle is only one game better and has now lost four straight after last Saturday's 59-point defeat at home to East Perth.
The teams have met once already this season at Mandurah's Bendigo Bank Stadium with South Fremantle thumping Peel by 73 points in Round 6 just a week after the Thunder had beaten current league-leaders Swan Districts at Steel Blue Oval.
Exciting and high-leaping South Fremantle forward Paul Mugambwa will celebrate his 100th game with the Bulldogs as well.
Casey Sibosado can't take a trick right now. After the former Docker was forced out of Perth due to not being able to fit in under points cap, he moved to South Fremantle and after finding form and fitness in the reserves, he worked his way in to the league side for the first time last week.
The versatile big man went down injured, though, in the second half and goes out of the team to face Peel on Sunday as does youngster Rhys Miller.
Fremantle's Paul Duffield is a more than handy inclusion, though, as is former Docker and veteran defender Josh Head. Joel Palumbo and Dylan Ross have been playing well in the reserves to be pushing their case for inclusion also.
The coach isn’t the only big change at Peel Thunder this week either with Toby Gianatti, James Flaherty, Brennan Gillam, Rhett Mason, Ryan Herring and Brad Triplett all looking to come back into the side.
They are good inclusions as well, at least when playing at their best. Flaherty adds experience and is a strong defender, Herring has the ability to be a strong target up forward, Triplett is a good defender and Mason and Gillam are good ball carriers and users.
Mitch Green, James Bristow and Liam McKenna are the three players at this stage to lose their place in the side from the one that lost to Swan Districts at home last week by 91 points.