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WAFL Team of Round 22Wednesday, September 8, 2021 - 2:20 PM - by Chris Pike

WHAT a finish it was to the 2021 Optus WAFL Premiership Season with it going right down to the wire to determine positions inside the top five while there were no shortage of standout performers.

Saturday's four matches presented the last opportunity for the top five teams to gear up for the upcoming finals series and to try and attempt to finish as high on the ladder as they could.

It would also a chance for the teams out of contention to finish on a high and the individuals to put together impressive showings to earn a spot in the Team of the Week, and strengthen their cases for a spot in the Team of the Year.

Claremont did enough to beat Swan Districts but could never quite put their foot down enough to win by enough to snatch second position. 

The Tigers won 11.11 (77) to 8.7 (55) with Jack Buller and Alex Manuel kicking three goals apiece, Jye Bolton 32 possessions and Bailey Rogers 30 to go with two goals. Chris Jones kicked three goals for Swan Districts with Jesse Turner amassing 29 disposals in his 100th game.

Subiaco might have led by 52 points during the third quarter but only held off Peel Thunder by four points in a remarkable finish to see the Lions secure the minor premiership with the 14.9 (93) to 13.11 (89) victory at Mandurah's David Grays Arena.

Greg Clark finished with 27 possessions and two goals for Subiaco with captain Leigh Kitchin adding 25 disposals and two goals while Jack Sears kicked three goals for Peel, and Ben Howlett kicked two goals in his final game with the Thunder while dual premiership coach Cam Shepherd also bowed out.

Perth looked a real chance of ending its season on a high with a second straight win over West Perth with a good start at Mineral Resources Park, but the Falcons soon dominated to end up prevailing 17.13 (115) to 10.5 (65) to gear up for their finals assault.

Sasha Kernutt kicked four goals for West Perth while Trent Manzone returned with 34 possessions, Aaron Black 33 and Shane Nelson 25 to go with two goals. Brady Grey had 26 disposals for Perth and Austin Davis 23.

South Fremantle started on fire at Fremantle Community Bank Oval with six goals in the first 17 minutes before cruising to a 13.17 (95) to 7.8 (50) win over the West Coast Eagles.

Cody Ninyette kicked four goals for the Bulldogs while Jake Florenca amassed 28 disposals and Nick Suban 25. Brayden Ainsworth had 30 disposals for West Coast, Ben Johnson 29 and Hamish Brayshaw 27.

Jake Florenca has made the best possible return from his ruptured Achilles that robbed him of a premiership last year, producing a third straight standout performance for South Fremantle on Saturday.

The 2020 WAFL season was one to treasure for South Fremantle with the Bulldogs winning a first premiership since 2009, but every flag triumph has a hard luck story and that just happened to be Florenca.

Having banged down the door and waited patiently for a regular league opportunity between 2016 and 2018, Florenca cemented himself as a consistent member of the South Fremantle midfield in the Grand Final year of 2019.

He then took his game to another level throughout the 2020 season, averaging almost 20 possessions in the shortened games and being a strong contributor to the South Fremantle team that finished the home and away season as minor premiers.

The 24-year-old was then playing well again in the preliminary final that South Fremantle would go on to win against West Perth with 21 possessions, eight marks and eight tackles before disaster struck and he ruptured his Achilles tendon.

Not only did that mean Florenca missed the premiership triumph a week later with his importance to the team highlighted when he finished runner-up in fairest and best voting, but it was going to leave him sidelined for most of 2021.

However, Florenca threw himself into his rehabilitation admirably and was tearing down the training track ahead of his return in the reserves back in the Round 18 derby at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.

He got through that game impressively with 19 disposals and nine tackles, and then with another full week of training under his belt over the bye the following week, he was straight into the league team for the following Sunday's clash with West Perth at Joondalup.

He made a stunning return too kicking a brilliant goal in the first quarter to go along with 11 possessions on his way to 29 disposals, eight marks and eight tackles for the afternoon.

Florenca has backed up that form the last two weeks as well on Saturday in the win against the West Coast Eagles, he finished with 28 possessions, five marks, five tackles and four entries inside the forward 50.

Players of the Round
Round 1 –
Josh Schoenfeld (East Fremantle)
Round 2 – Sam Fisher (Swan Districts)
Round 3 – Greg Clark (Subiaco)
Round 5 – Haiden Schloithe (South Fremantle)
Round 6 – Tyrone Thorne (Peel Thunder)
Round 7 – Keegan Knott (West Perth)
Round 8 – Jye Bolton (Claremont)
Round 9 – Tyler Keitel (West Perth)
Round 10/11 – Jonathon Marsh (East Fremantle)
Round 12 – Jackson Ramsay (East Perth)
Round 14 – Warrick Wilson (Swan Districts)
Round 15 – Angus Schumacher (East Perth)
Round 16 – Oliver Eastland (Claremont)
Round 17 – Brandon Matera (Subiaco)
Round 18 – Aidan Lynch (East Perth)
Round 19 – Shane Nelson (West Perth)
Round 20 – Michael Randall (Peel Thunder)
Round 21 – Bailey Rogers (Claremont)
Round 22 – Jake Florenca (South Fremantle)

One of the league's premier defenders got a run under his belt for Subiaco ahead of the week off to start the finals and then the second semi-final, and he was his usual rock solid self down back for the Lions in the narrow win over Peel Thunder. He finished the afternoon in Mandurah with 18 possessions, three marks and three tackles.
Times named in 2021: 6

FULL-BACK – NOAH STROM (South Fremantle)
He was tremendous once again to lead the South Fremantle defence against the West Coast Eagles in the absence of Blake Schlensog who was forward and Blayne Wilson who was sidelined. Was once again rock solid defensively holding Eagles debutant Nick Watson to three kicks and one goal while having 21 possessions and 12 marks himself.
Times named in 2021: 5

He lost a couple of his usual defensive teammates for the clash with Claremont with Alex Howard out injured and Chris Jones moving up forward to provide a target, and Swan Districts did lose to the Tigers but it through no fault of his. He finished off the best home and away season of his career with his body staying sound by delivering another 16 disposals and nine marks.
Times named in 2021: 6

The 123-game veteran completed the best and most consistent season of his career with Peel with another outstanding performance. Has split his season in his more familiar half-back role but has also become an impressive on-baller in 2021, and he was desperate to send off captain Ben Howlett and coach Cam Shepherd a winner on Saturday. That didn’t quite happen but he still had 18 disposals, six tackles and five marks.
Times named in 2021: 7

He quite often doesn’t get the recognition for his impact at South Fremantle that he does from inside the club, but once again he was crucial in the Bulldogs' win over the West Coast Eagles with his intercept marking, defensive work and setting up play from the back-line. Ended up with 22 touches, eight marks and three tackles.
Times named in 2021: 4

He has found his role nicely in the Claremont back-line perhaps out of necessity with the absence of the likes of Anton Hamp and Lachlan Martinis through injury, and now he's going to be a key player in the Tigers' final run. He put in another strong showing again in Saturday's win finishing with 20 possessions to give Claremont good drive out of defence.
Times named in 2021: 2

He had been sidelined since Round 7 with a hamstring tendon injury but the prolific ball winning wingman earned his spot back in the West Perth team with two games back in the reserves. He then was tremendous in his league return on Saturday with 34 possessions, seven marks and seven inside 50s to be ready to have an impact for the Falcons come finals time. 
Times named in 2021: 2

The Subiaco captain was right back to his best in Saturday's tight win over Peel and not only did he find plenty of the ball in the middle, but he got dangerous and became a goalkicker for the Lions too. He can no longer win the Sandover Medal after being suspended but he will be right up there on the leaderboard after amassing another 25 possessions, six tackles and two goals.
Times named in 2021: 9

His teammate Jye Bolton called him the best player in the WAFL last week and the pressure didn’t go to his head as he delivered another outstanding performance in the win against Swan Districts. He produced another terrific game that should him earn him more Sandover Medal votes with 32 touches, nine marks, four tackles and three inside-50 entries.
Times named in 2021: 8

It has been a breakout season for the 20-year-old with Peel Thunder and his consistency has been impressive in a team that has been perhaps the most inconsistent in the league across the season. Whether in the midfield or playing forward, he has been tremendous and that included on Saturday against Subiaco where he had 23 touches, five marks, four tackles and three inside-50 entries.
Times named in 2021: 6

The lively half-forward has had a solid season with Claremont as he turns into an experienced and consistent member of the Tigers outfit. He had another good showing in the win against Swan Districts with three goals from 16 possessions, five inside 50s and seven marks. He has kicked an impressive 39 goals from 18 games in 2021.
Times named in 2021: 1

He returned from a hamstring injury and picked up right where he left off to likely add some more Sandover Medal votes to his collection that could very well see him announced the winner on the night after the best season of his career. He produced 27 touches, eight inside 50s, five marks, five tackles and two goals against the Peel Thunder.
Times named in 2021: 10

The dynamic small forward has had a terrific first full season with South Fremantle and he had the most incredible of starts on Saturday against West Perth. By the 15-minute mark of the second term, he already had four goals to his name and while he didn’t add to that, the damage was done and he was instrumental in setting up the important win for the Bulldogs.
Times named in 2021: 3

The young key forward has put together a solid first full season of league football and he provided another good target in attack for Claremont in Saturday's win against Swan Districts. He went on to kick three goals from 12 disposals and three marks while helping out with the ruck duties with nine hit outs. He has finished the season with 30 goals from 18 matches this season.
Times named in 2021: 4

West Perth has had no trouble finding avenues to goal this season with Tyler Keitel kicking 64 goals, Keegan Knott 38, Rudy Riddoch 25 and Mitch Antonio 15, but he stood up impressively on Saturday to show he is another genuine threat for opposition teams to worry about. In just his fourth league game, he kicked four goals from 10 kicks, four marks and three tackles.
Times named in 2021: 1

The four-time premiership ruckman is back to his best form in the middle for Subiaco just at the right time heading into the finals where he will lead their charge for another flag. He got the better of his match up with Fremantle and Peel big man Lloyd Meek to finish the afternoon with 21 possessions, 23 hit outs, six marks, six tackles and four inside 50s.
Times named in 2021: 7

The Claremont superstar geared up for the finals with another outstanding performance for the Tigers in Saturday's win against Swan Districts. Earned a 10th Team of the Week selection for 2021 to cap another fine season with a performance made up of 32 disposals, nine marks, four tackles and three entries inside the forward 50.
Times named in 2021: 10

It was a big day for the hard running wingman who can also have a run through the midfield as he celebrated his 100-game milestone with Swan Districts to become the first player to achieve the feat in the No. 29 jumper after the legendary Billy Walker. Was missing plenty of usual midfield teammates against Claremont but he still impressed with 29 possessions, six marks, six tackles and five inside-50 entries.
Times named in 2021: 5

The 18-year-old made his debut on Saturday for Peel to close the season at league level and just happened to do it against the toughest opposition in the WAFL, the minor premiers Subiaco. The fact that he stood up so well and was so impressive only goes to show why there's so much excitement surrounding his future. He finished up with 22 possessions, nine marks, five inside 50s and a goal.
Times named in 2021: 1

The dual premiership winning talent who regularly splits his time between half-forward and the midfield continues to show his value to the Lions when he's healthy. It's only his body that has meant he's played just 78 games so far, but when healthy he's one of the most productive and efficient players in the WAFL. Produced another 19 touches, six touches, three inside 50s and a goal on Saturday against Peel.
Times named in 2021: 1

It has been another remarkable season from the West Perth captain whose form has been as impressive as at any other point in his 220-game career as he prepares to lead the Falcons into the eighth finals campaign he's been part of. He was superb again in the win against Perth with 33 possessions, 10 marks and five tackles. 
Times named in 2021: 9

There were plenty of players who delivered tremendous performances across Round 22 but couldn’t quite fit into the Team of the Week, including:

Claremont's Ryan Lim, Kane Mitchell, Jared Hardisty, Declan Mountford and the returning Oliver Eastland.

Swan Districts' Chris Jones, Jesse Palmer, Jackson Beck, Jehb O'Donohue, Lachlan Riley and Greg Ottaviano.

Peel Thunder's Jack Sears, Stefan Giro and Jackson Merrett.

Subiaco's Wil Hickmott, Liam Hickmott and Harry Marsh.

Perth's Kristian Cary, Brady Grey, Austin Davis, Corey Byrne and Michael Sinclair.

West Perth's Shane Nelson, Tristan Hobley, Steve Potente, Blake Wilhelm and Zac Guadagnin.

South Fremantle's Nick Suban, Jacob Dragovich, Tom Blechynden, Zac Dent, Haiden Schloithe and Zac Strom.

West Coast Eagles' Brayden Ainsworth, Ben Johnson and Hamish Brayshaw.