THE WAFL celebrates its annual NAIDOC Week in Round 16 action this weekend with four crucial matches on Saturday afternoon with all clubs wearing specially designed jumpers to commemorate the occasion.
All four matches will be played at 2.05pm on Saturday afternoon with Swan Districts hosting Perth at Bassendean's Steel Blue Oval, Subiaco facing East Fremantle at Leederville's Medibank Stadium, South Fremantle taking on Claremont at Fremantle Oval and Peel Thunder hosting West Perth at Mandurah's Bendigo Bank Stadium.
The third-placed East Perth has the bye after a run of winning four straight matches.
SWAN DISTRICTS (6-6, 5th) v PERTH (7-5, 4th) – STEEL BLUE OVAL, SATURDAY 2.05PM
Swan Districts and Perth have met in two classic battles already this season and now meet for a third time in what is shaping as a crucial clash at Bassendean's Steel Blue Oval.
The first meeting this season was in Round 4 also at Steel Blue Oval with Perth ending up winning by two points thanks to a late goal to ruckman Christian Eyres after a 50-metre penalty was paid against a Swan Districts trainer.
Then in Round 11 at Lathlain's Brownes Stadium, Swan Districts got a measure of revenge in an incredible match that saw Perth captain Paul Bevan kick seven goals at one end and young Swan Districts star Dayle Garlett six down the other.
In the end, Swans midfielder Brett Robinson ran through the middle and kicked the last goal of the game on the run from just outside 50 to secure the eventual four-point victory.
Both teams remain locked in a tight tussle over fourth spot on the ladder as well.
Perth is still fourth after wins the last two weeks against Peel and South Fremantle with a 7-5 record while Swan Districts is just behind on 6-6.
A win for the Demons would go a long way to securing their first finals appearance since 1997 but a Swans win leaves the race wide open still.
Remarkably Swans have performed poorly at home this season so far with just the one victory coming against South Fremantle in Round 5. They have lost all five other games at Bassendean to Claremont, Perth, East Perth, Subiaco and most recently West Perth by three points last Saturday.
The Swan Districts team has been a beacon for Indigenous talent in recent years with the likes of Lewis Jetta, Jeff Garlett, Chris Yarran, Michael Walters and Andrew Krakouer coming through the ranks to get drafted and go on to perform tremendously in the AFL.
On Saturday, the black-and-whites will again be well represented with Aboriginal talent in NAIDOC Week with Graham Jetta, Jamie Bennell, Dayle Garlett and Murray Newman to line-up for Swan Districts.
Perth has also had the likes of Leon Davis and Troy Cook in recent years as all-time great AFL Indigenous players coming back to finish their careers in the WAFL with the Demons.
Again on Saturday, the Demons will be well represented with Hawthorn premiership midfielder Chance Bateman lining up as will on-fire forward Brennan Stack.
Joel Houghton could have been a third Indigenous player to line up for Perth after he kicked three goals in last week's win over South Fremantle in his first league appearance of the season, but he is out of the Demons' side.
Houghton is the only out for Swan Districts at this stage with midfielder Alistair Smith set to return after missing the win over South Fremantle.
West Coast's Simon Tunbridge is back after making his AFL debut last Thursday night against Essendon with Joel Leeson a chance to play his first game of the season. Defender David Johnston could also force his way back into the side to face one of his two former WAFL clubs.
Swan Districts at this stage has not named anyone to come out of the team that lost narrowly by three points to West Perth last Saturday. Rory Cary, Matt Rogers and Jarrad Blight are all pressing their cases to fight their way back into the Swans' side.
SUBIACO (5-7, 7th) v EAST FREMANTLE (5-8, 6th) – MEDIBANK STADIUM, SATURDAY 2.05PM
Subiaco and East Fremantle meet on Saturday at Leederville's Medibank Stadium with both needing a crucial four points to remain in the finals race in 2013.
Both the Lions and Sharks have five wins apiece this season with the fourth-placed Perth currently sitting on seven so a loss on Saturday would make it incredibly tough for that side to find a way to break into the top-four between now and the end of the season.
That is especially the case for last year's grand finalists East Fremantle who have played one extra game to currently sit on a 5-8 record having lost six of its last seven games now to be in real jeopardy of missing finals after a grand final appearance.
Subiaco at least has one game in hand on the Sharks and the top-three teams in the competition but the Lions do need to start stringing wins together if they want to be any hope of participating in September.
Even though East Fremantle did record a 69-point win over Subiaco in Round 4 this season at East Fremantle Oval, the Lions have still dominated the Sharks this century.
The Lions might have won just 114 games from 339 games in history against the Sharks, but recent years has seen Subiaco completely dominate East Fremantle both at East Fremantle Oval and away from Shark Park.
Subiaco has won 25 of the last 27 meetings between the two sides since late 2002.
Prior to earlier this season, East Fremantle's only win in that period against Subiaco came in Round 21, 2010 when the Sharks prevailed by 11 points but Subiaco had won 20 straight before that.
Highlighting the Lions' dominance over the Sharks the last decade, three of Subiaco's all-time highest scores kicked against East Fremantle have come in that time including the record score of 26.17 (173) in Round 22, 2006 at Medibank Stadium.
Subiaco has developed a strong Indigenous culture in recent seasons highlighted not only by dual Sandover Medallist and four-time premiership player Allistair Pickett, but Des Headland, Marty Smith and Raphael Stack are also among the Lions' Indigenous talent.
This Saturday, the Lions will again be well represented at Medibank Stadium for NAIDOC Week with former Fremantle 202-game veteran Antoni Grover lining up for his second game of the season while running defender Joey Daye has become a key part of the Lions team since joining from the Gold Coast Suns.
Grover battled injury in the first half of the year, but prepared for a new forward role for a couple of weeks in the reserves before coming in a fortnight ago to the league side to kick two goals in Subiaco's one-point loss to West Perth at Arena Joondalup.
However, with star full-back Darren Rumble out of the Subiaco team to face East Fremantle this Saturday, Grover might be forced to go back again.
West Coast's Mark Nicoski is also out of the Subiaco team and his season is over after a wrist injury with Chris Deluca also out of the team.
Emerging defender Daniel Leishman returns for the Lions as does Daye with Matt Bogensperger, Abe Davey, Kyle Halligan and Michael Wood pressing for selection as well.
East Fremantle might not have the rich Aboriginal history of some other WAFL clubs and unfortunately won't have a representative on Saturday with Fremantle's Josh Simpson and West Coast's Brad Dick both unavailable.
Another Eagle Jacob Brennan and Docker Cameron Sutcliffe are out for East Fremantle from the team that lost to Claremont by three points last Saturday in Kununurra.
Fremantle's Max Duffy will be back, though, with Sam Read and Aidan Tropiano pushing for selection as is former Perth utility Michael Edwards after just the one game in the reserves for the Sharks after six league appearances and 45 in the reserves for the Demons.
SOUTH FREMANTLE (2-11, 9th) v CLAREMONT (12-1, 1st) – FREMANTLE OVAL, SATURDAY 2.05PM
South Fremantle and Claremont continue their NAIDOC Week tradition this Saturday at Fremantle Oval with the Bulldogs facing a huge challenge of breaking an eight-game losing run against the ladder-leading Tigers.
South Fremantle and Claremont have met in NAIDOC clashes now every year since 2007 with the Tigers having won five of the six previous clashes while Claremont is also on top overall in recent clashes with South Fremantle.
The Bulldogs won the WAFL premiership in 2009, but since then have not managed to beat the Tigers with Claremont winning all eight meetings since by an average of 48 points.
That includes Claremont winning in Round 1 this year at Claremont Oval by 48 points and then by 67 at Fremantle Oval in Round 10.
South Fremantle perhaps has the strongest Indigenous heritage of all clubs in the WAFL, and possibly Australia, with the Bulldogs' Indigenous Team of the Century reading like a who's who of football royalty.
That team includes Stephen Michael, Maurice Rioli, Nicky Winmar, Peter, Phil and Wally Matera, Basil Campbell, Brad Collard and Benny Vigona as well as recent AFL stars Ash McGrath, Shannon Cox, Roger Hayden, Dean Rioli, Jeff Farmer and Mark Williams.
The most recent South Fremantle player in that team is Toby McGrath who retired just last year.
The Bulldogs will again be well represented out on Fremantle Oval this Saturday as well for NAIDOC Week with young midfielders Jacob Martinez and Tim Kelly lining up while Kaiden Matera will make his league debut after impressive goal kicking form in the reserves.
Claremont certainly has its own rich heritage of Aboriginal players including Jim and Phil Krakouer, and Chris Lewis as well as recent premiership players Gerrick Weedon and Alroy Gilligan.
The Tigers will have a familiar name playing for them out on Fremantle Oval this Saturday with Nick Winmar, the cousin of South Fremantle legend Nicky, lining up in NAIDOC Week in his first season back with Claremont after time in the AFL with St Kilda.
Fremantle's Alex Silvagni has been named in the Dockers' extended squad to face St Kilda on Sunday but could still line up for Claremont on Saturday with Richard Cronin, Anton Hamp and Jack Richardson all pushing to come in and further strengthen the Tigers' forward-line.
PEEL THUNDER (3-10, 8th) v WEST PERTH (9-4, 2nd) – BENDIGO BANK STADIUM, SATURDAY 2.05PM
West Perth hasn’t always had the most pleasant trips to Mandurah in recent years to face Peel Thunder but head to Bendigo Bank Stadium this Saturday needing to keep winning to keep hold of second spot, but the home side has some key players returning.
The Falcons currently sit a game and percentage clear in second position on the ladder with a 9-4 record with just seven games of the 2013 season remaining while Peel will want to get a win on the board to avoid any chance of falling to the bottom of the ladder as well.
Peel might just have a 3-10 record on the season, but all three wins have come at Bendigo Bank Stadium against Swan Districts, Subiaco and East Perth.
The Thunder's losses at home to East Fremantle, Claremont and Perth have also been by significantly less margins than when Peel leaves Mandurah.
West Perth has now won three straight games to consolidate second position on the ladder even if the last two wins have been by a combined four points over Subiaco and Swan Districts.
The Falcons haven’t always performed well in Mandurah, though, despite a 100-point win at the venue in Round 19 last year.
Prior to that, Peel beat West Perth by 21 points in 2011, by 41 points in 2010 and two points on a wet Saturday night back in 2007.
The Falcons did win comfortably over Peel back in Round 5 at Arena Joondalup this year but the Thunder will be a significantly improved side this time around.
Peel has already created a strong Aboriginal heritage dating back to the incredible 2002 season with Allistair Pickett, Daniel Wells and Darren Bolton all starring.
Since then, Quinton Bolton was another to become a good servant of the club while Harley Bennell, Johnny Bennell and Kelvin Lawrence have all found themselves drafted with Harley Bennell becoming a star with the Gold Coast Suns as has Wells with North Melbourne recently playing his 200th AFL game.
While Jarrhan Jacky and Cruize Garlett are currently on the sidelines with injuries for Peel, Lawrence is a chance to come into the team this Saturday against the Falcons where he could join fellow Indigenous players Devin McFarlane and Marlon Motlop.
West Perth might not currently have an Indigenous player in its side with small forward Anton Saylor recently having to take time off from the club to go and work on the mines.
However, the Falcons over time have had tremendous Indigenous talent dating right back to Graham 'Polly' Farmer and Bill Dempsey, and current AFL stars Stephen and Brad Hill.
As well as Lawrence looking to return for Peel this week against West Perth, the Thunder have some crucial inclusions from Fremantle including ruck pair Jack Hannath and Craig Moller, and prolific midfielder Viv Michie.
Matt Brown also returns for Peel from suspension with Blair Bell a chance to make his league debut after he picked up 15 possessions in the reserves last week against East Perth.
Key defender Chris Luff is out of the team with a serious knee injury with young ruckman Ben Smith and forward Jesse Hockings also out.
West Perth has three important outs with Laine Rasmussen, Nick Rodda and Jordan Jones going out of the side that beat Swan Districts in a thriller by three points last Saturday.
James Batterham, Matt Fowler, Mitch McPhee, Joe Morrow, Kris Shannon and Frank Stockley are all in the mix to come in for the Falcons with Shannon likely to replace Rasmussen, Morrow to take Jones' place and the others fighting for Rodda's position in the forward-line.