Western Australia weekly wrap: O’Reilly and Cameron shine on September stage

THE first weekend of Spring saw fine and sunny conditions and a true sense of finals fever as the second season officially began in earnest. The first week of finals saw old rivals East and South Fremantle meet at Fremantle Oval on Saturday while Peel and Swan Districts met in the qualifying final on the Sunday at Claremont Oval. The two games were held at the same locations to where the Seniors were playing their finals.

For those individuals who have been lucky enough to play at this time of year, they will tell you that it is a completely different type of footy compared to the home and away season. It is a time when reputations are earned and careers are made. For the next generation of stars, the next month will be a great learning tool in their fledgling careers.

WAFL Colts Wrap: Finals Week 1

Elimination Final – East Fremantle 18.7 (115) defeated South Fremantle 8.5 (53)

A stunning 14 goals to two second half display saw reigning premiers East Fremantle storm their way into the second week of the finals series with a 62-point thrashing against old rivals South Fremantle on Saturday morning, ending the Bulldogs season.

Both teams came into the game knowing each other extremely well having played each other just six days ago when the Bulldogs ran out victorious by 18 points which saw East Fremantle blow their opportunity of finishing in the top three and slip down into this elimination final clash. In their two other meetings in 2018 it was the Bulldogs who ran out victorious by 38 points in round four, while East Fremantle registered a victory in the traditional WA/Foundation Day clash by 14 points.

The Bulldogs got off to a strong start leading by eight points at quarter time with Luke Moore continuing his strong form from last week, causing a fair share of headaches for the Sharks defence. East Fremantle started the second term with a real sense of purpose kicking the first two goals to briefly take the lead, but it was the duo of Moore and Ira Jetta who were looming as being extremely influential to the outcome of the contest. The Bulldogs went to the long break by kicking three consecutive goals to lead by 13 points with Moore kicking four goals for the half.

Once again East Fremantle got off to a strong start to the quarter courtesy of goals to Dillon O’Reilly and Edward Curley and scores were now locked at 40 points a piece. Unlike the second term, the Sharks kept up with their momentum and O’Reilly put them back in front. The game was compelling in its nature with South Fremantle hitting back once again when Moore kicked his fifth goal of the game.

There was now an old-school shootout taking place at either end of the ground as O’Reilly kicked his third for the quarter and the son of the former Geelong and Fremantle full-back was causing massive concerns for the Bulldogs coaching thrust kicking his fourth for the all-important third term. Nash Miller kicked the seventh goal of a thrilling quarter of action, but Cody Smith responded in kind to push the lead out back beyond double figures. A late goal by Ethan Brown gave the Sharks a handy 17-point buffer with a quarter to play.

The main question going into the final 25 minutes was whether the Bulldogs had an answer to East Fremantle’s third quarter blitz, or if the Sharks could carry on the with the job. The answer was the latter as East Fremantle kicked another seven goals to nil to finish with a resounding 62-point win and will play the loser of the clash between Peel and Swans.

It was almost hard to keep up with the scoring action such was the regularity of the Sharks entries into their forward line. It could be said that East Fremantle lured their Fremantle rivals into a false sense of security after last week, keeping something up their sleeves to hit them with and they certainly did so with a crisp, clean knockout punch. In doing so, the Sharks put the top three teams on notice that they are not going to give up their premiership without a fight.

A clear sign of East Fremantle’s superiority after the break came courtesy of the inside 50 count. At half-time it was locked at 18 a piece, but come the end of the game the statistic had been flipped on its head to see East Fremantle hold an advantage by 19 (45-26). That naturally translated to a number of scoring shots and the Sharks had 18 for the second half (14.4) compared to just three for the Bulldogs (2.1).

Versatile swing man O’Reilly was an absolute colossus for East Fremantle and his impact in the second half was one of the main reasons for the momentum switch in the match.  He finished with six goals to go with nine marks and 19 disposals. Milan Murdock worked tirelessly all game racking up 26 disposals and 14 tackles, while Dylan Curley was a livewire in the forward 50 with four goals to go with his eight tackles and three marks.

South Fremantle proved over the last month of the season that they were a deserving finalist, playing the kind of football that wins you games in September. That continued in the first half of the elimination final, but they were left wanting in the final half, unable to keep up with their opponents.  Continuing his consistent form all season, Kyle Hamersley was a willing worker in the midfield with 25 disposals and six tackles and had support in Matthew Ward with 22 disposals and seven tackles. Moore was the dominant player on the ground in the first half with four majors, but as his team struggled to get their hands on the ball, the forward was naturally starved of opportunities only kicking one goal after the long break.

Qualifying Final – Swan Districts 9.7 (61) defeated Peel 7.10 (52)

Swan Districts overcame the ghosts of finals past as they produced a composed performance defeating second placed Peel Thunder by nine points at Claremont Oval on Sunday morning.

Both teams had split their two meetings in 2018, with Swans’ winning a thrilling affair by two points in round two, but Peel emphatically turned the tables in round 13 thrashing their opponents by 62 points.

The first goal of this contest came courtesy of a strong mark and goal to Jarrod Cameron and they followed that with a major to Nathan Ireland thanks to a ruck infringement. Peel had no difficulty getting the ball inside their 50-metre arc but were struggling to find a key target to make the most of their opportunities. Atem Deng then set up Cameron for his second of the quarter and the Swans went into quarter time with a 16-point lead.

Peel would have been looking for better’ composure with ball in hand and it didn’t take long for that to eventuate when a pin-point kick by Jake Howes set up Lachlan Cullen for their first goal. Peel were now dominating field position and Swans’ were looking to weather the storm and hit the Thunder on the counter attack.

They did just that when Ayden Cartwright kicked his first goal from a mark and then some clever play from Cameron put Patrick Farrant into space and he converted on the run from 45 metres. Peel hit back through a mark and goal from a acute angle by Ben Middleton and were well and truly back in the game when Killian Rawson converted smartly from a stoppage cutting the margin to just 12 points.

A screamer by Fremantle Dockers next generation prospect Jason Carter then set up another scoring opportunity, but Cullen missed to the near side and that summed up the first half for Peel a nutshell as they had many more inside 50s and double the scoring shots, but just could not capitalise. 

The third quarter underlined the nature of this contest with plenty of big tackles, great pressure from both sides and missed opportunities. Swans’ edged the quarter two goals to one courtesy of two great individual bits of play from Cameron, one from the boundary and the other a set shot from 50 metres which stamped his class on the contest. In between those goals Jarrod Fazioli kicked Peel’s fourth major to keep them in the hunt. Heading into the last term, Peel needed roughly four goals to win but that looked to be a tall task, having only kicked four goals for the first three quarters.

Deng started the fourth term with a great tackle inside the Swans’ forward 50 which earned him a free kick and his subsequent finish gave them a three goal lead. Riley Garcia then topped off a typically hard running game with a goal which moved them one step closer to a semi final clash with Subiaco.

Needing a piece of inspiration to keep them alive, a clever kick out of a pack by Cameron Gavin gave them the smallest glimmer of hope with 13 minutes left. Their chances grew a little more hopeful with a terrific goal by Middleton which gave them back to back goals and some late momentum.

Peel then wasted some late scoring chances and eventually when Middleton converted an opportunity by kicking his third for the game, there was just over a minute left and Swans’ were able to see that out without any drama to claim a well deserved win. They have earned a clash against minor premiers Subiaco in the major semi next week while Peel will meet East Fremantle in the minor semi final. Although the margin was only nine points at the end of an intense encounter, make no mistake Swans were certainly the deserving winners having made all the running throughout the contest.

The win ended four straight losses in finals for Swans’ who have been September regulars over the past five seasons winning the 2014 premiership runners-up to Claremont a year later. Ironically their last win in September came against Peel in the 2015 Preliminary final.

A feature of Swans’ victory was their pressure around the ground and that was emphasised by the fact that Swans had 90 tackles for the game, 22 more than their opponents had on the day. They were also able to soak up a lot of pressure conceding twenty more inside 50s (54-34) and were more efficient as they had just one less scoring shot for the game (17-16).

In terms of best players, Swan Districts had many but for overall impact there was none better than Cameron who despite having just the nine disposals, made every one of them count by kicking four goals and setting another one up in a permanent forward role. He presented well up at the footy with seven marks and laid five bone bruising tackles. The midfield unit was led superbly by Mitchell Bain who had 31 disposals and eight tackles along with Garcia with 24 disposals. Meanwhile the defensive unit was well marshalled by the likes of Denzel More, Brenton Hilton and Jake Pasini who for the majority of the contest kept the key figures in the Peel forward line at bay.

Peel also had a strong showing from their midfielders in Lachlan Riley (30 disposals and five tackles) and James Sturrock (29 disposals and six tackles), while the very promising Carter was pushed into the midfield in the last quarter after a composed game at half back finishing with 20 disposals, seven marks and four tackles.

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