IT has become the most incredible of recent rivalries and it now will add one more instalment this Sunday at Fremantle Community Bank Oval as South Fremantle battles Claremont for a place in the Grand Final.
This will be the sixth time that South Fremantle and Claremont have locked horns in a finals match in the past three years.
Making it the more remarkable is the fact that all of them have been at Fremantle Community Bank Oval which will again where Sunday's preliminary final takes place.
The most recent battle was just two weeks ago in the qualifying final which saw South Fremantle beat Claremont by a single point when the Tigers missed a shot after the siren that would have won the game.
Now it feels like fate that the Bulldogs and Tigers come together once more on Sunday afternoon to do battle in the preliminary final with a place in next Saturday's Grand Final against Subiaco at Optus Stadium on the line.
The preliminary final between two teams so used to battling with one another and who are so evenly matched shapes us quite the dramatic Sunday afternoon at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.
Of the six finals the two teams will have now played over the last three years, this will just be the second preliminary final with the first being back in 2019 when South Fremantle won by 30 points before going on to lose to Subiaco in the Grand Final.
This run of finals battles began in the qualifying final of 2019 with the Bulldogs beating the Tigers by seven points before they would go on to meet in the preliminary final two weeks later.
Then in 2020, it was Claremont who won by a thumping 47 points in the second semi-final to move straight into last year's Grand Final. But with the premiership at stake on their home ground, South Fremantle turned the tide to win an instant classic by three points.
Now just two weeks ago in the qualifying final of 2021, Claremont opened up a more than handy 30-point early in the third quarter only for South Fremantle to kick seven of the last nine goals to be in front when the siren sounded.
However, Claremont co-captain Jared Hardisty had a free-kick and the ball in his hands with a chance to win the game for the Tigers. He wasn’t quite able to, though, and the Bulldogs won by a point.
Since then, South Fremantle took on Subiaco in last Saturday's second semi-final at Leederville Oval while Claremont played host to West Perth in the first semi-final at Revo Fitness Stadium.
Both teams found themselves in significant holes too. The Bulldogs were 40 points down to the Lions early in the third quarter and while they did manage to kick the next four goals to get back into the contest, they went on to lose by 22 points.
Claremont was able to turn the tide on West Perth, though, to finish full of running and to end up winning by 24 points to earn their spot in another preliminary final.
Now it's all on the line for South Fremantle and Claremont. Not only is it the sixth finals meeting at Fremantle Community Bank Oval in the last three years between the two teams, but from the last three clashes at the ground including NAIDOC Round this year, South Fremantle has won all three.
Remarkably those wins have come only by a total of five points highlighting just how little separates the two sides.
South Fremantle is a little wounded coming out of last week's loss to Subiaco and as a result experienced premiership defender Blayne Wilson, versatile big man Blake Schlensog and captain Dylan Main go out of the side.
Main hasn’t had a real impact in the second half of the season with his foot injury, though, while the loss of Wilson will be tough to cover especially consider the man most likely to replace him as a key defender is Schlensog who has spent the majority of his time late in attack.
South Fremantle has added Travis Abbott, Glenn Byron, Jarrad Doney, Hamish Free, Trent Newton, Seaton Thompson and George Wessels to their extended squad for the preliminary final.
At least three of those players will come into the final 22 to replace Schlensog, Wilson and Main with the coaching staff having the option to go tall by adding Free to a team still including Brock Higgins while they need to find another forward and defender at least.
Claremont does appear the healthier of the two teams coming into the preliminary final having just added Louis Passera, Ben Elliott, Marc Boyatzis and Bailey Bennett to their extended squad with nobody named out at this stage.
Preliminary final day at Fremantle Community Bank Oval begins on Sunday morning with the colts contest between Swan Districts and East Fremantle. The winner will advance to the Grand Final to take on Claremont next Saturday.
Then in the reserves preliminary final, it will be Claremont taking on Subiaco with the winner to take on Perth in the Grand Final at Optus Stadium.
OPTUS WAFL PREMIERSHIP SEASON – FINALS SERIES
SOUTH FREMANTLE v CLAREMONT – FREMANTLE COMMUNITY BANK OVAL, SUNDAY 2.40PM
Live scores, stats
TV: Channel 7
Radio: 91.3 SportFM, SEN
CLAREMONT v SUBIACO – FREMANTLE COMMUNITY BANK OVAL, SUNDAY 12.00PM
Live scores, stats
SWAN DISTRICTS v EAST FREMANTLE – FREMANTLE COMMUNITY BANK OVAL, SUNDAY 9.20AM
Live scores, stats ???????
Livestream: The West Australian