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Qualifying Final Reaction – ClaremontTuesday, September 14, 2021 - 8:57 PM - by Chris Pike

CLAREMONT must be wondering what more it has to do to get past South Fremantle at Fremantle Community Bank Oval after a second straight one-point loss at the venue on the back of a three-point Grand Final last year.

It's quite the remarkable quirk that Claremont has come up against South Fremantle in five finals now in the past three WAFL seasons and each and every one of them has been at Fremantle Community Bank Oval, including that 2020 Grand Final.

Claremont did win big by 47 points in the second semi-final of last year but the other four finals match ups have all gone the way of the Bulldogs as they won on home turf in the qualifying and preliminary finals of 2019, Grand Final of 2020 and then Saturday's qualifying final.

Highlighting just how little separated South Fremantle and Claremont during the 2021 season on the back of last year's Grand Final battle, the Bulldogs only finished second to earn home ground advantage courtesy of 2.47 per cent.

But Claremont came out a determined outfit to write the wrongs from their last two losses to South Fremantle at the port by a total of four points, and put together a terrific first half of football.

The pressure the Tigers applied on the Bulldogs was outstanding meaning the home team and reigning premiers got no clean possession and were in a hurry with everything they did.

In contrast, Claremont was able to move the ball cleanly and crisply to give their forward-line good service which included one of the gun on-ballers of the season, Bailey Rogers who looked the cleanest and most efficient player on the field with the ball in his vicinity.

Claremont would go on to kick the game's first two goals and then the first four goals of the second term to open up a 28-point lead late in the first half while still maintaining a 24-point advantage at the major break.

That became a 30-point lead for the Tigers when Timm House kicked his second goal to open the second half and Claremont looked well and truly on track to move straight into a second semi-final against Subiaco.

South Fremantle had other ideas, though and kicked the next four goals before Claremont got a steadier through Rogers before leading by four points still at three quarter-time.

The Tigers were back up by 11 points with an Isaac Barton midway through the last term but then the Bulldogs got two more goals and took the lead at the 24-minute mark.

Claremont kept on attacking, though, and eventually co-captain Jared Hardisty earned a free-kick 30m out from goal on a 45-degree angle before the siren sounded.

The occasion doesn’t get much bigger and unfortunately for the Tigers his shot went across goal and missed to his right and South Fremantle won by a point meaning Claremont will now take on West Perth in the first semi-final this Sunday at Revo Fitness Stadium.

To Hardisty's everlasting credit, he was willing to stand up and talk to The West Australian post-match and talked through a kick for goal he won't be able to shake from his memory for some time.

"When you get that opportunity to get your club into the second semi-final and you miss the set shot after the siren, it’s just extremely disappointing," Hardisty told The West Australian.

"The whole time I was just thinking about the breeze and putting it on the left goal post, but I just shanked it a little bit. It started at the centre of the goals and worked its way across with the breeze and went through for a point."

The missed shot made for a bittersweet day for Hardisty because take that out and he was just about the best player on the field delivering 26 possessions and 16 tackles for the Tigers.

He was instrumental along with the majority of his teammates in setting up their impressive first half performance, but he was as frustrated as anyone that they couldn’t keep South Fremantle in check the entire afternoon as their rivalry went up another gear.

"In that first half we were just clean below our knees, played pretty simple footy, gave our forwards a chance and won the clearance battle," Hardisty said.

"Then in that third quarter, they just got on top in the middle and plain and simply we went away from the basics. 

"It’s a good tussle and a bit of a history between us in the past couple of years. We said it coming into the game we owe them one, but we let that opportunity slip."