SOUTH Fremantle threatened to make a real mess of the West Coast Eagles early on Saturday at Fremantle Community Bank Oval, but the Bulldogs cruised to a 45-point win to see them finish second on the WAFL ladder.
South Fremantle came into the game in second spot knowing they needed to win the game and to do so by a greater margin than what Claremont beat Swan Districts by at the same time to stay there going into a qualifying final between the two next Saturday.
That didn’t look like a problem with the way the Bulldogs flew out of the blocks. They played some remarkably exciting football in the first 20 minutes of the getting the ball out of the middle at will, and driving the ball long and directly to their tall forward targets.
The forwards responded by marking everything at sight and it was small forward Cody Ninyette to take full toll kicking three of the six goals that the Bulldogs kicked inside the first 17 minutes.
West Coast didn't even go inside their forward 50 for the first time until the 20-minute mark of the opening term.
However, after that opening flurry from South Fremantle, it was an even contest the rest of the afternoon with the Bulldogs doing what they needed to stay in second spot and winning 13.17 (95) to 7.8 (50).
As reigning premiers, South Fremantle finished the season in second position with a 13-5 record ahead of taking on Claremont in a qualifying final on Saturday at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.
The Eagles finish with the wooden spoon and a 4-14 record with their season coming to an end.
Cody Ninyette threatened to have the game of his life with four goals to his name inside the first quarter and-a-half, but he was rarely sighted from that point on and finished with just the four majors.
Fellow small forwards Brandon Donaldson and Jesse Motlop both kicked two goals apiece as well meaning it was the little men who combined for eight goals while big men Mason Shaw, Jimmy Miller and Blake Schlensog combined for just two.
Jake Florenca continued his stunning return from a ruptured Achilles with another 28 possessions for South Fremantle while Nick Suban gathered 25 disposals, Jacob Dragovich 23, Tom Blechynden 23, Haiden Schloithe 20 and Zac Strom 18.
South Fremantle's back-line was again superb led by Noah Strom with 21 possessions and 12 marks. Chad Pearson also had 22 disposals and eight marks, and Zac Dent 21 touches and six marks.
Brock Higgins returned in the ruck with 15 touches, four tackles and 39 hit outs with the Bulldogs to now choose between him and Hamish Free for the finals.
West Coast's goals all came from individual sources while Brayden Ainsworth gathered 30 possessions, Ben Johnson 29 and Hamish Brayshaw 27.
The Bulldogs came out in full force for the opening term kicking six goals in the opening 17 minutes which ended up being a match-winning start.
Their fast paced and high-pressure playing style contributed heavily to the scoring flurry, but it was mostly owed to the hat-trick from Cody Ninyette who kicked truly to earn the side a healthy lead.
Not only did they have huge numbers on the scoreboard, but they manage to keep the Eagles down to just six inside-50 entries across the whole quarter, with the first one coming a whole 20 minutes into the game.
Kieran Hug then broke the scoring drought for West Coast soon after, kicking truly to secure their first major of the day which was soon followed up by Ben Johnson to leave them 26 points down by quarter-time.
The Bulldogs accuracy dropped off in the second term, but West Coast couldn’t capitalise to get any closer on the scoreboard.
While the Eagles were the first to score with a goal from Harry Sinclair, South Fremantle was quick to make a comeback to ensure they maintained a handy advantage.
The ball featured heavily in the Eagles forward 50 this quarter, but it didn’t waver the possession count that South Fremantle continued to dominate.
The Bulldogs showed their skills once they were finally able to clear the ball, utilising a swift running play to get the ball up the field to Nick Suban who scored a goal.
This sparked the teams back to their first quarter state, going on to produce another 1.6 including Ninyette’s fourth major of the day.
The Eagles fired back for the third quarter, fighting for redemption with a quick couple of goals from seven scoring shots in under 10 minutes.
Their domination was part strategy but also in part to South Fremantle dropping off their intensity to start the second half.
Brandon Donaldson turned the hero for the Bulldogs late in the term with back-to-back majors in the 21st minute to reinstate their confident buffer.
A final goal from Isiah Winder brought the Eagles to 27 points behind leading into the final term.
It was a relatively quiet fourth quarter but the job was done with South Fremantle kicking the only two goals to end up winning by 45 points.
OPENING TERM SURGE
South Fremantle were on fire in the first term producing six goals in the first 17 minutes to create a sizeable buffer over the Eagles that proved impenetrable. Those six goals went on to make up just under half of their daily total of 13, with West Coast only getting as close as 20 points the difference part way through the second quarter.
THE NINJA STRIKES
Cody Ninyette once again put on a show with a momentous four goals in a spectacular first 45 minutes of the contest. Three of these contributed to South Fremantle's first quarter surge that featured six goals, half going to Ninyette. Outside of the oval square, Ninyette had a strong performance with 11 disposals, eight kicks and four goals for the day.
OPTUS WAFL PREMIERSHIP SEASON – ROUND 22
SOUTH FREMANTLE 6.3 8.9 11.10 13.17 (95)
WEST COAST EAGLES 2.1 4.2 7.7 7.8 (50)
SOUTH FREMANTLE: Goals – Ninyette 4; Donaldson, Motlop 2; Schloithe, Dragovich, Suban, Shaw, Schlensog.
Best – N Strom, Florenca, Suban, Pearson, Ninyette, Dent, Dragovich, Donaldson.
WEST COAST EAGLES: Goals – Winder, Watson, Johnson, Sinclair, Hug, Nitschke, Cary.
Best – Brayshaw, Ainsworth, Johnson, Winder, Sinclair.