NAIDOC Round in the WAFL might have been greeted by some unpleasant weather, but it didn’t stop plenty of players putting themselves in contention for spots in the WAFL Team of the Week once again.
NAIDOC Round in the WAFL began on Saturday afternoon at Bassendean's Steel Blue Oval with Swan Districts coming from behind to kick seven goals to one after half-time to beat Perth 9.11 (65) to 7.6 (48).
South Fremantle bounced back strongly to kick six goals to two after quarter-time and beat Claremont to retain the Jimmy Melbourne Cup with the 7.13 (55) to 3.3 (21) victory at Revo Fitness Stadium.
East Fremantle further consolidated their hold on a top two position and made Subiaco's job of staying in the finals hunt all that harder with a 9.11 (65) to 6.4 (40) win at Leederville Oval.
East Perth kept itself in the finals race this WAFL season by beating the West Coast Eagles 7.8 (50) to 4.3 (27).
The tight one of the afternoon took place at Joondalup's Pentanet Stadium with West Perth maintaining their hold on top spot with the narrow 7.5 (47) to 6.8 (44) victory against Peel Thunder.
Despite the tough conditions, there were plenty of ruckmen putting up their hands for a spot in the Team of the Week including Lloyd Meek, Scott Jones, Callum Jamieson, Jeremy Goddard, Kieran Gowdie and Dakota Baldwin-Wright.
Some of the inside midfielders who had strong showings included Darcy Tucker, Shane Nelson, Luke Meadows, Angus Schumacher, Hamish Brayshaw, Jackson Ramsay, Joey Deegan, Xavier O'Neill, Josh Browne, Jye Bolton, Corey Byrne and Regan Clarke.
There were those on the outside standing out too including Neil Erasmus, Trent Manzone, Stan Wright, Angus Scott, Patrick Naish, Ryan Lester-Smith, Blaine Boekhorst, Stefan Giro, Ronin O'Connor, Bailey Rogers and Jarvis Pina.
Other midfielders to produce impressive performances were Connor Blakely, Karl Worner, Mark Hutchings, Tristan Hobley, Jack Cooley, Jackson McDonald, Jordan Snadden, Liam Hickmott, Tom Blechynden, Brendon Ah Chee, Steve Verrier, Haiden Schloithe, Ben Edwards, Austin Davis, Greg Ottaviano, Brenton Hilton, Aidan Clarke, Tobe Watson and Josh Cipro.
It wasn’t conditions made for forwards to standout but some to stand up were Tyler Keitel, Christian Ameduri, Tyron Smallwood, Sam Perkusich and Tom Edwards.
Some of the defenders to impress were Traye Bennell, Haydn Matthews, Heath Chapman, Alex Witherden, Matthew Jupp, Cam Eardley, Galen Savigni, Blake Schlensog, Chad Pearson, Glenn Byron, Toby McQuilkin, Kasey Nicholas, Tony Notte and Tony Stephens.
PLAYER OF THE ROUND – BLAINE BOEKHORST (EAST FREMANTLE)
He is 95 games into his WAFL career and playing the best football of his life as he chases some elusive success with Blaine Boekhorst delivering another best on ground performance for East Fremantle on Saturday.
East Fremantle has had plenty of obstacles thrown in their way so far in 2022 with the loss of Tom Joyce, Hugh Dixon and Luke Strnadica before the season even started, then losing Brynn Teakle in the mid-season draft and they've had plenty of injuries to deal with on top of that.
Despite that, this East Fremantle team of 2022 wasn’t going to let any obstacles given them excuses for another down season.
Clearly tired of struggling having not played finals since 2014, with coach Bill Monaghan leading the charge, the group of experienced players remained are largely in career-best form with a good batch of emerging players beneath them, and Boekhorst is a shining example.
He's not shy on experience having played 44 matches with Swan Districts before being drafted to Carlton at the end of 2014 to end up playing 25 AFL matches over the next three seasons.
Upon returning to Western Australia, he joined East Fremantle but his 2018 season was over before it started when he ruptured his ACL and required a knee reconstruction.
He returned in 2019 and has played some good football since including a standout 2021 season which saw him named to the WAFL Team of the Year, and he's gone up another level again in 2022.
Whether it's him who is a big reason for East Fremantle's rise or playing in a better team is helping bring out the best of him, whatever the case but he is in a brilliant vein of form and he could very well be the most damaging player in the WAFL right now.
His outside game has always been his strong suit with his ability to run and carry the ball, and to also use his long-kicking skills to a treat, but he's also winning plenty of his own ball so far this season.
He continued his brilliant form with another best on ground performance on Saturday in East Fremantle's win against Subiaco with 37 possessions, seven inside-50 entries, four marks and two tackles.
More importantly for Boekhorst, he's helping the Sharks sit in second position on the WAFL ladder after 12 rounds as he attempts to play finals this year for just the second time in his career. His only other WAFL final was a first semi-final loss to East Perth when at Swan Districts back in 2013.
Players of the Round
Round 1 – Jake Florenca (South Fremantle)
Round 2 – Ryan Lim (Claremont)
Round 3 – Luke Meadows (West Perth)
Round 4 – Jesse Turner (Swan Districts)
Round 5 – Leigh Kitchin (Subiaco)
Round 6 – Blair Bell (Peel Thunder)
Round 7 – Oliver Eastland (Claremont)
Round 8 – Matthew Jupp (East Fremantle)
Round 9 – Toby McQuilkin (South Fremantle)
Round 10 – Aaron Black (West Perth)
Round 12 – Blaine Boekhorst (East Fremantle)
WAFL TEAM OF THE WEEK – ROUND 12
BACK: Traye Bennell (PT), Chad Pearson (SF), Kasey Nicholas (P)
HALF-BACK: Heath Chapman (PT), Tony Notte (SD), Cam Eardley (EF)
CENTRE: Blaine Boekhorst (EF), Steve Verrier (SF), Austin Davis (P)
HALF-FORWARD: Ryan Lester-Smith (EF), Tom Edwards (SD), Brendon Ah Chee (SF)
FORWARD: Tyron Smallwood (C), Tyler Keitel (WP), Christian Ameduri (EP)
RUCK: Kieran Gowdie (C), Tobe Watson (SD), Hamish Brayshaw (EP)
INTERCHANGE: Shane Nelson (WP), Jackson Ramsay (EP), Aidan Clarke (SD), Haiden Schloithe (SF)
BACK POCKET – TRAYE BENNELL (Peel Thunder)
He is often an attacking defender and has played that role well for much of his 88-game WAFL career, but he's showing he can do some impressive lockdown roles down back too. There's no bigger job than on Bernie Naylor Medal leader Keegan Knott right now, and he limited the lively small forward to four kicks and no score on Saturday while having five touches and five tackles himself.
FULL BACK – CHAD PEARSON (South Fremantle)
The South Fremantle back-line was miserly once again conceding just three goals to Claremont on Saturday and really, any of Noah Strom, Toby McQuilkin and Blake Schlensog could have taken this spot, but for the combination of his shutdown job and his ability to win one-on-one contests, he gets the nod. Finished the afternoon with 10 touches, five tackles and three marks as well.
BACK POCKET – KASEY NICHOLAS (Perth)
Has consolidated himself as one of the league's best and most consistent defenders this season with Perth, and that's an even more significant achievement given how under fire the Demons' back-line usual is. Produced another strong showing against Swan Districts on Saturday to finish up not only being impressive defensively but ending up with 18 disposals, five tackles, four marks and four entries inside the forward 50.
HALF-BACK FLANK – HEATH CHAPMAN (Peel Thunder)
The Fremantle defender marked his return from injury on Saturday with Peel Thunder and delivered a commanding performance at half-back to likely earn himself an immediate AFL recall this coming weekend with the Dockers. He finished with 23 possessions, five tackles, four marks, three inside-50 entries and a goal against West Perth.
CENTRE HALF-BACK – TONY NOTTE (Swan Districts)
It's quite remarkable that he's still playing at such a high level 274 games into his WAFL career with Swan Districts and showing no signs at all of dropping even though he now lives down south and can't train with the team too often. Is having another standout season and continued that at centre half-back in win against Perth in tough conditions with 17 touches, six marks and four tackles.
HALF-BACK FLANK – CAM EARDLEY (East Fremantle)
It continues to be such a masterstroke from coach Bill Monaghan to have moved the strong midfielder to a role at half-back when he did during 2021. He has continued to thrive in the role ever since and has become the best set up player off half-back in the competition as a result. Produced another terrific performance on Saturday in the win against Subiaco with 33 touches, five marks and four inside 50s.
CENTRE – STEVE VERRIER (South Fremantle)
The 2020 premiership player is just about in career-best form now with South Fremantle after returning this season after taking the year off in 2021. He has settled into a role as an inside midfielder especially since Jake Florenca went out injured and is thriving, and his toughness and contested ball winning ability was on show in Saturday's tough conditions against Claremont. He delivered 28 touches, nine tackles, six inside 50s and a goal.
WING – AUSTIN DAVIS (Perth)
His teammate Brodie Gray can consider himself unlucky to not earn this spot for the job he did shutting down Swan Districts co-captain Jesse Turner, but the reality was it was a coin toss between the pair who both fought valiantly to try and get Perth a drought breaking win. He did a power of work all afternoon to end up with 18 possessions, six tackles and three inside-50 entries.
HALF-FORWARD FLANK – RYAN LESTER-SMITH (East Fremantle)
His career resurgence in 2022 has been a treat to watch and his ability to run and carry the ball, and kick long and be damaging is now one of East Fremantle's great weapons. He is 128 games into his career and playing some of his best and most consistent football. He had another 18 touches, five marks, four tackles and two goals in the win against Subiaco.
CENTRE HALF-FORWARD – TOM EDWARDS (Swan Districts)
He was virtually the main forward option for Swan Districts against Perth on Saturday with both Chris Jones and Nathan Ireland absent, and Jesse Palmer unable to have any impact. He stepped up impressively to play the best game of his 22-match career by kicking four goals to go with 15 possessions.
HALF-FORWARD FLANK – BRENDON AH CHEE (South Fremantle)
Playing in his first NAIDOC Week game for South Fremantle, he was captain for the occasion in the absence of Dylan Main and what a day to remember it was for the proud Indigenous star. Ended up lifting the Jimmy Melbourne Cup and he had a brilliant performance in the win over Claremont in the midfield with 29 possessions, seven tackles and three inside-50 entries.
FORWARD POCKET – TYRON SMALLWOOD (Claremont)
He has had some varied roles so far throughout his 40-game career with Claremont but it's playing as a small forward right now that he's really thriving in. On a day where teammates Timm House, Alex Manuel, Jack Buller and Alex Manuel all went scoreless, he was the only multiple goal scorer in the game against South Fremantle kicking two to go with 15 touches and nine tackles.
FULL-FORWARD – TYLER KEITEL (West Perth)
The West Perth spearhead might not have had the first half of the season he hoped, but his form has been building with five goals the previous two matches leading into the bye and he carried that on in challenging conditions in the win against Peel on Saturday. He ended up kicking three goals from 24 possessions, five tackles and three marks in his 134th match with the Falcons.
FORWARD POCKET – CHRISTIAN AMEDURI (East Perth)
East Perth needed to find a small forward to help find another avenue to goal and it just happens to be that one of their best midfielders and reigning fairest and best winner is proving more than adept at the role. The Royals' midfield stocks are strong with the likes of Angus Schumacher, Hamish Brayshaw, Jackson Ramsay, Stan Wright and Angus Scott, but his move forward in recent weeks is paying off. It did so again on Saturday where he kicked two goals from 17 touches and six tackles.
RUCK – KIERAN GOWDIE (Claremont)
It's not unreasonable to suggest he might not even have played on Saturday had first choice Claremont ruckman Oliver Eastland been available, but he sure grabbed his chance in brilliant fashion against a tough opponent in Hamish Free and in terrible conditions. Easily the best game of his seven-match career with a career-best 20 possessions along with 45 hit outs and five tackles.
RUCK ROVER – TOBE WATSON (Swan Districts)
The former Fremantle defender can consider himself unlucky to not be in the AFL in 2022, but instead of letting that get him down, he has returned to Swan Districts in brilliant form whether playing off half-back or in the midfield. He delivered a standout performance in the midfield on Saturday in the win against Perth finishing with 27 touches, 11 tackles and four inside-50 entries.
ROVER – HAMISH BRAYSHAW (East Perth)
It's easy to see why East Perth was so excited to welcome him back to the Royals in 2022 and he is in the middle of a standout season as one of the premier midfielders in the competition. You would have to think he will poll well in the Sandover Medal and he secured another Team of the Week slot after 35 touches, nine tackles and five marks in win against his former team, West Coast.
INTERCHANGE – AIDAN CLARKE (Swan Districts)
He is having the best season of his 44-game WAFL career but at times it's been hard to grab the headlines with how well teammates Jesse Turner and Sam Fisher have been going. However, he grabbed the spotlight on Saturday with a superb performance in the win against Perth ending up with 30 touches, eight tackles and six inside-50 entries.
INTERCHANGE – JACKSON RAMSAY (East Perth)
The East Perth captain continues to have a rough run with injury, but when he's healthy and on the field he remains one of the standout players in the competition. He showed that with his performance in the win against West Coast on Saturday by finishing with 29 possessions, nine inside-50 entries and eight tackles.
INTERCHANGE – SHANE NELSON (West Perth)
It's only fitting that as he now approaches his 200th match for West Perth this coming Saturday against Claremont that he reaches the milestone in the form he's maintained for the majority of his remarkable career that's seen him win four Breckler Medals. Was terrific again in conditions he thrives in against Peel with 33 possessions and six entries inside the forward 50.
INTERCHANGE – HAIDEN SCHLOITHE (South Fremantle)
They were conditions he has thrived in right throughout out his glittering 192-game career with South Fremantle and he chucked on his long sleeve jersey on Saturday, and got stuck with a standout tough performance in the midfield for the Bulldogs. His physicality, class and experience were all on show as he finished with 25 touches, 13 tackles, seven inside 50s and a goal against Claremont.
There were plenty of players who delivered tremendous performances across Round 12 but couldn’t quite fit into the Team of the Round, including:
Swan Districts' Josh Cipro, Jarvis Pina, Brenton Hilton, Tony Stephens and Greg Ottaviano.
Perth's Sam Perkusich, Corey Byrne, Regan Clarke and Dakota Baldwin-Wright.
Claremont's Jye Bolton, Bailey Rogers, Ben Edwards and Ronin O'Connor.
South Fremantle's Glenn Byron, Toby McQuilkin, Tom Blechynden and Blake Schlensog.
Subiaco's Liam Hickmott, Stefan Giro, Jordan Snadden and Galen Savigni.
East Fremantle's Jackson McDonald, Matthew Jupp and Jeremy Goddard.
West Coast's Patrick Naish, Xavier O'Neill, Josh Browne, Callum Jamieson, Alex Witherden and Joey Deegan.
East Perth's Angus Scott, Angus Schumacher, Stan Wright, Jack Cooley and Scott Jones.
West Perth's Luke Meadows, Trent Manzone, Mark Hutchings and Tristan Hobley.
Peel Thunder's Connor Blakely, Karl Worner, Neil Erasmus, Darcy Tucker, Haydn Matthews and Lloyd Meek.