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Weekend to savour on horizon for CurleyFriday, September 24, 2021 - 7:13 PM - by Chris Pike

TODD Curley's footballing heart largely lies at three clubs and that means that this weekend could very well be a 24-hour period he'll never forget if the Western Bulldogs win the AFL premiership and South Fremantle reaches a third straight WAFL Grand Final.

Curley's heart, in terms of football, is split between West Perth, the Western Bulldogs and now South Fremantle given the significant time he's spent at each three clubs, and this weekend provides quite the unique opportunity for him.

He's little more than a supporter now, but his AFL heart lies at the Bulldogs and it's a once in a lifetime opportunity for Curley and those teammates of the 1990s that went through so much together to see them play in the AFL Grand Final on Saturday night at Optus Stadium.

Curley will then be coaching South Fremantle into a sixth consecutive preliminary final in the WAFL on Sunday against Claremont at Fremantle Community Bank Oval with a spot in next Saturday's Grand Final on the line at Optus Stadium.

It has the potential to be one of the weekends of his life and Curley is looking forward to it.

"It will be good to go and watch obviously and the kids are excited, and all of that sort of stuff. But we'll have a big game the next day as well to focus on so it's going to be a big weekend that's for sure," Curley said.

"By Saturday night there won't be much to do in terms of our preparation so it will be good to take our minds off what's to come on Sunday and enjoy the AFL Grand Final. I'll go there and have a good night with the family and then get ready to go again on Sunday."






Curley has put together a remarkable lifetime in football and it has included plenty of success along the way including two premierships in the WAFL as a player with West Perth and another as a coach with South Fremantle in 2020.

He also got to live out the dream of seeing the Western Bulldogs win their breakthrough AFL premiership at the MCG in 2016 so this weekend in Perth could very well be one for Curley that he'll treasure forever if everything goes to plan.

Curley's bond with West Perth has had to go on hold somewhat while coaching at South Fremantle but he'll never hide the remarkable memories he built with the Falcons where he is a life member, dual premiership player and was captain to finish his career after his time in the AFL.

It was at West Perth where Curley began his senior coaching career too straight after retiring as a player and that's where he renewed his mixed feelings of preliminary final days – with a loss to Swan Districts in 2008 in remarkable circumstances at Arena Joondalup.

However, the Western Bulldogs is where Curley made his home in the AFL and after arriving in 1996, he quickly became a key member of a strong defensive unit and a standout team that would end up heartbreakingly losing preliminary finals in 1997 and 1998 to the Adelaide Crows.

However, Curley should be tremendously proud of the 115-game career he put together at the Bulldogs up until the end of 2001. 

He has remained a big supporter of the Bulldogs, his children now are big fans too and after being there in 2016 to celebrate that first premiership since 1954, he hopes to be able to do so again on Saturday night at Optus Stadium.

"It was good obviously back in 2016 especially because we hadn’t won one for so long and we'd been so close a few times," Curley said. 

"They have done a remarkable job to get back to where they are and their preparation has been pretty good. I'm sure they'll enjoy the build up to the game and then hopefully be ready to go."

It's quite a history that Curley has across the three clubs he's spent the majority of his career too.

There is the 148 games, life membership and two premierships at West Perth, the 115 AFL matches with the Western Bulldogs and now he is a premiership coach and on track to be South Fremantle's longest serving coach.

A win in Sunday's preliminary final would mean he's taken South Fremantle to three straight Grand Finals and you'd have to make the case that he's the leading coach in the WAFL right now.

He's never one to reflect too much, but Curley does acknowledge his heart is pretty evenly split across his clubs.

"I think all the footy clubs you play at have a special place for you. I've got some lifelong friends from the Bulldogs and because of the age I was there, you make some crucial friends there at the point of your life," Curley said. 

"There's a few who are flying in that we'll catch up with who we haven’t seen for a while from SA and Darwin so that will be good and all your footy clubs make up your mates so I'm looking forward to seeing them again."

It's hard to ignore what an incredible part in Curley's lifetime in football preliminary final days have played as well – whether in the AFL or WAFL.

His first preliminary final experience was in 1993 in the WAFL for West Perth where the Falcons were victorious against Subiaco before eventually losing the Grand Final to Claremont.

His next two preliminary finals were in the AFL at the Western Bulldogs. The Bulldogs were looking to end a drought that took until 2016 to end, but especially the 1997 loss to Adelaide from a winning position will never be forgotten.

Curley and the Bulldogs also lost in 1998 to the Crows before his next preliminary final experience was back in the WAFL at West Perth in 2002. The Falcons again beat Subiaco but then again lost the Grand Final to East Perth.

West Perth then beat East Perth in the 2003 preliminary final and backed it up by beating Subiaco in the Grand Final for Curley's second premiership a week later.

It was then time for Curley to begin life in preliminary finals as a coach beginning at West Perth in 2008 against Swan Districts at Arena Joondalup. 

It was an unforgettable occasion with Swans ending up storming home from a 35-point deficit to beat the Falcons even with a false final siren delaying the celebrations.

That would be Curley's last game as coach at West Perth before he joined the Fremantle Dockers and his love-hate relationship with preliminary finals resumed at South Fremantle in 2016 with a loss to the Dockers fuelled Peel Thunder.

A year later was a loss to Subiaco at Leederville Oval and then in 2018, a shock upset defeat at the hands of a West Perth team that South Fremantle had beaten by 98 points just two weeks earlier in the qualifying final.

Curley had every reason to think he might have been cursed on preliminary final day after that, but things turned around the last two years with a five-goal win over Claremont in 2019 and 21-point victory against West Perth last year.

He will now be looking to lead South Fremantle to a third straight preliminary final win against Claremont this Sunday in what is the team's sixth straight appearance on the day.

Going back further for Curley between his playing and coaching career, this will be his 12th preliminary final appearance and he remains confident South Fremantle will bounce back from last week's second semi-final loss to Subiaco.

"That'll be the aim to make the most of getting this double chance. We still get another look and there's a lot of teams who aren’t playing anymore who would love this chance. We'll get down and get prepared, and get ready to go again," Curley said.

"There's definitely the confidence there that we can bounce back. Even in the second half we really bounced back, it's just that we didn’t do it for long enough. We were really slow and beaten around the ball, and they took their chances which didn’t help us get back into the game. 

"They put us under pressure early and then we missed a couple at the same time, and didn’t take our opportunities. We've lost games worse than that during the year and bounced back so we'll lick our wounds and go again."