AFTER unexpectedly missing the finals last season, Subiaco have made a quick return to September action in 2021 and appear a good chance for their third flag in four seasons after locking up the minor premiership in the final round.
Subiaco was one of the teams hardest hit during the COVID-19 impacted and shortened 2020 WAFL season which saw their run of dominance come to an end and the Lions didn’t even end up taking part in the finals action.
However, prior to that, Subiaco had finished as minor premiers in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 which led to them winning premierships in 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019 along with 2014 from second spot while losing Grand Finals to Fremantle-powered Peel Thunder teams in 2016 and 2017.
It was a remarkable run of dominance and normal hostilities resumed in 2021 with Subiaco again claiming the minor premiership to mean they have done so in six of the last seven years as they now chase a sixth premiership in nine seasons since 2013.
It might have got a bit closer than they hoped in the final round to secure the minor premiership, but now that they have secured that first place and a first week finals break, it will help get some of their senior bodies healthy and the Lions are going to mighty tough to topple once more.
THE SEASON SO FAR
One of the big questions about 2021 was whether Subiaco could rebound from their disappointing 2020 season and the Lions didn’t take long to signal their attentions by winning their first three games against East Perth, East Fremantle and West Perth.
The Lions had a hiccup with a loss to South Fremantle in Round 4 but they did lose a couple of key players during that game and they responded the next week with perhaps their best win of the season to beat Claremont by 40 points in what was a battle of unbeaten teams at the time.
Subiaco then also beat Swan Districts heading into the State Game break before coming back with wins against Peel Thunder and Perth.
The Lions then lost consecutive matches for the only time this season at the hands of West Coast and Swan Districts by a combined six points, but rebounded well to win the next five matches.
Subiaco had a late season slip up against East Fremantle but then finished off beating East Perth and Peel to close with a 14-4 record to take top spot and earn the week off the open the finals series as they await the winner of South Fremantle-Claremont in the second semi-final at Leederville Oval.
KEY WINS OF THE YEAR
Subiaco hosted South Fremantle in Round 16 on a stodgy Leederville Oval surface and the Lions completely blunted a potent South Fremantle attack after quarter-time. They held the Bulldogs to two goals over the final three quarters and only four goals the entire game to run out comprehensive 10.13 (73) to 4.5 (29) winners. Skipper Leigh Kitchin led from the front with 33 disposals and 11 inside 50s while Angus Dewar was resolute in defence and Michael Braut kicked three goals.
After thumping Claremont earlier in the season, Subiaco took on the Tigers again in Round 18 in what turned out being one of the best games of the home and away season. Subiaco recovered from a 35-point deficit to have a stirring win on the road against a fellow contender. Greg Clark was massive with 30 disposals and 13 tackles while Ben Sokol kicked six goals, including the match-winner. It was the sort of victory that would give the Lions the belief that they can win from anywhere.
MATCH UP WITH FELLOW FINALISTS
Subiaco has beaten every other finalist this season, defeating Claremont and West Perth in both matches while splitting the results against Swan Districts and South Fremantle.
Subiaco lost to South Fremantle by 18 points back in Round 5 before beating them in Round 16 in dominant fashion with the home team winning on each occasion.
Going back further, South Fremantle did beat Subiaco last year on the way to a premiership but prior to that, the Lions had won seven of the past eight matches over the Bulldogs including the Grand Final of 2019 by 96 points.
There were also wins for Subiaco in the second semi-finals of 2016, 2018 and 2019, and preliminary final of 2017.
Subiaco beat Claremont impressively by 40 points back in Round 6 and then came from 35 points down to beat them again in Round 18.
The Lions did lose to the Tigers last year but prior to that were on a 10-game winning streak and have won 12 of the past 13 against them.
Last time they met in finals was a decade ago with Claremont beating Subiaco in the 2011 Grand Final. Prior to that, the Lions won Grand Finals against the Tigers in 2004 and 2007 while Claremont won the preliminary final in 2005 and second semi-final of 2007.
Take out a loss to West Perth as well in 2020 and Subiaco sure has enjoyed quite a dominance in recent times over the Falcons, including two wins this year.
The Lions have won 12 of the past 13 matches against the Falcons including winning the 2015 Grand Final against them by 66 points and the Grand Final of 2018 by 81 points.
Then there is Swan Districts who Subiaco split their two games with in 2021 with the away teams winning in two tight contests.
Going back further and before losing in Round 12, Subiaco had won the previous 12 matches against Swans.
Last time they met in finals was 2009 with Subiaco beating Swan Districts in the preliminary final on the back of also winning the 2008 Grand Final.
PLAYERS TO BE EXCITED ABOUT
Brandon Matera - The former Fremantle and Gold Coast forward didn’t play any finals across his 10-year, 144-game AFL career so will be relishing the opportunity to help Subiaco to a premiership in his first year at the club. Has kicked 15 goals from 11 games in 2021 and will be looking for a big finish to the year.
Greg Clark - The big bodied midfielder is a contender for the Sandover Medal after a career-best season which has seen him average 27 disposals and six tackles. Is a dual premiership player but will play a more prominent role in the Lions midfield in this finals campaign and will be key to Subiaco’s success.
Jordan Lockyer - The 28-year-old is one of the most reliable defenders in the league and is often given the job on the opposition’s most dangerous forward. His ability to shut down a Tyler Keitel, Mason Shaw or Timm House could prove crucial in deciding the result of a big final.
KEYS TO WINNING
Led by Jordan Lockyer, Aaron Heal and Angus Dewar, the Lions have the best defence in the competition, conceding an average of just 63 points per game.
In the engine-room, they boast an imposing midfield group, led by Leigh Kitchin, Greg Clark and Harry Marsh as well as Sandover Medallist Lachlan Delahunty, who uses his mobility to play like another on-baller in the ruck.
The Lions also have a good mix of youth and experience in their side, with plenty of finals experience to go along with young players such as ruckman Lewis Putt and medium sized forward Nick Martin, who will be getting their first taste of finals footy.
Having finished on top of the ladder, there aren’t too many chinks in the maroon and gold armour but rival clubs may think if they can stop Ben Sokol, they can stop the Subiaco forward-line.
The key forward is the only Lion to have booted more than 25 goals while fellow finalists South Fremantle, Claremont and West Perth all have multiple players to have booted more than 30.
The minor premiers would also like to be running out games better than they have in recent weeks, having lost their last three second halves and almost being run down by Peel last week.
2 – The number of times an opposition player has kicked four or more goals against Subiaco this season. The Lions' ability to stop dangerous opponents from getting off the chain has been pivotal this season.
3.3 – The number of goals Ben Sokol averages in finals. The 2019 Simpson Medallist is a big game player and will be looking to add to his already outstanding finals record.
15 – The number of premiership players in the Subiaco squad. The Lions boast plenty of finals experience and will know what is required to get the job done.
1 – Where Subiaco's defence is ranked having conceded just 62.7 points a game this season. The Lions only gave up 100 points once in 18 games.
1st – Where Subiaco ranks in terms of second and fourth quarters throughout the season. The Lions outscored their opponents by 222 points in second quarters and then by 126 in last terms. Meanwhile they are ranked third in first quarters and last in third terms where they were outscored by 118 points.