Round 18 Preview v East Perth

Saturday, July 22, 2017 - 2:38 AM by Chris Pike

SOUTH Fremantle heads to Busselton looking for a fifth straight WAFL victory and to down East Perth who just happen to be the last remaining team that the Bulldogs are yet to beat in 2017.

For the second straight week there will be a regional WAFL match as part of the Department of Sport and Recreation's Country Sport Enrichment Scheme.

After Subiaco played Claremont in Esperance last Saturday, this week will see East Perth and South Fremantle play at Sir Stewart Bovell Park in Busselton.

It's just the second time that Busselton has hosted a WAFL match with the last encounter seeing Swan Districts and East Perth play out a draw in front of almost 1500 fans in 2003.

The venue is the home ground of the Busselton Magpies of the South West Football League. The day will feature colts, reserves and league fixtures between Busselton and Augusta Margaret River either side of the WAFL main event between the Royals and Bulldogs.

As a result of that, East Perth and South Fremantle's colts and reserves fixtures will take place on Saturday at Leederville Oval.

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It is a crucial match in the context of the season for both teams as well with East Perth needing to win to potentially move into the top five while South Fremantle will be looking to further consolidate second position.

The Royals missed a chance to break into the top five losing to Peel Thunder by 28 points at Leederville Oval last Saturday.

But they remain just a game behind the fifth placed West Perth and a win on Saturday could see East Perth replace the Falcons if they happen to lose to Perth at the same time.

South Fremantle is on a four-game winning run heading to Busselton to remain solid in second position with an 11-4 record, but the Bulldogs do need to keep winning to hold off the third placed Peel Thunder who are just a game behind.

While the Bulldogs have won four straight now against West Perth, Perth, Claremont and Swan Districts since a loss to Peel back in Round 12, they will be concerned against their starts.

In each of the last three games, South Fremantle has started poorly trailing Perth by 29 points just before quarter-time, Claremont by 25 points late in the first quarter and then Swan Districts by 41 points last week midway through the second term.

The responses have been terrific to beat the Demons by 110 points, the Tigers by 25 and Swans by 40, but clearly they would prefer to not have to be playing catch up football in the first place.

It was the opposite story when the Bulldogs and Royals first met this season at Fremantle Community Bank Oval. East Perth was the team roaring home on that occasion to snatch the one-point victory in Round 10 at the port.

East Perth also remains the only team that South Fremantle is yet to defeat in 2017. Last week the Bulldogs beat Swan Districts to leave the Royals their only team yet to get over this season.

South Fremantle coach Todd Curley doesn’t expect too much to change for the trip to Busselton but coming up against a fired up East Perth won't be too different to the slow starts the Bulldogs have made a habit of in recent weeks.

"Not a lot other than you have to drive two hours to get to the game and play on a different ground. But it will be the same for the opposition. We'll give the players the option of how to prepare and whether they go down early or not, and we'll train as we normally do during the week," Curley said.

"But our starts haven’t been great so it's a good chance for us. We were pretty good against them last timeout here for three and-a-half quarters and then let ourselves down. Our boys are a pretty proud group so I think they'll be ready to play."

Tom Vandeleur, Chad Pearson, Matthew Parker and Jarrod Parry are the four South Fremantle players continuing to play strong football in the reserves team that sits on top of the table.

However, it's not easy to break into the Bulldogs league side and there could be just the one spot available again on Saturday with Brendan Verrier going out of the team that beat Swans by 40 points last Saturday at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.

East Perth's biggest change is the return of co-captain Kyle Anderson who will play his first game since injuring a shoulder in the WAFL's state game victory against the VFL in Melbourne. His reward will likely be a match up on triple Bernie Naylor Medallist Ben Saunders.

East Perth will also welcome back West Coast Eagles pair Sharrod Wellingham and Chris Masten with Fraser McInnes and Malcolm Karpany likely to play as well having not travelled to Melbourne with the Eagles as emergencies.

Tom Cole will go out after a tremendous performance off half-back last week against Peel Thunder.

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