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Monday, September 27, 2021 - 12:22 PM by Chris Pike

SOUTH Fremantle delivered a standout courageous preliminary final performance to beat Claremont on Sunday at Fremantle Community Bank Oval to book a place in a third successive Grand Final.

Things weren’t pointing in favour of the Bulldogs following a second semi-final loss to Subiaco last Saturday at Leederville Oval and then coming into Sunday's preliminary final against the Tigers without key players Brandon Donaldson, Blayne Wilson, Blake Schlensog and Dylan Main.

Then with Claremont desperate to end a run of heartbreaking finals losses at Fremantle Community Bank Oval against the Bulldogs, it was never going to be easy but South Fremantle dominated the opening three quarters.

South Fremantle kicked two goals in each of the first three quarters while holding Claremont to just eight behinds up until three quarter-time.

The Bulldogs led by as much as 38 points with a goal to Haiden Schloithe in the third term. But the Tigers were always going to make a run and they did with four goals in the first 12 minutes of the last quarter.

South Fremantle wouldn’t be denied, though, with the 6.7 (43) to 4.8 (32) victory in what was the lowest scoring preliminary final ever with Claremont's score the lowest ever kicked too.

South Fremantle has now won five of those six finals the last three years over Claremont but more importantly will now play in a third straight WAFL Grand Final against Subiaco at Optus Stadium on Saturday.

Haiden Schloithe spent a lot of the game forward for South Fremantle and kicked two goals to go with 20 possessions and six tackles.

Chad Pearson was outstanding down back with 24 possessions and eight marks while being rock solid defensively as was Noah Strom on Jack Buller along with Aiden Hall and Toby McQuilkin on Alex Manuel and Callan England.

Tom Blechynden worked hard in the midfield for the Bulldogs for 22 disposals and six tackles while Jacob Dragovich finishing with 21 possessions on the wing while Zac Strom had 16 touches and five marks on the other side.

Nick Suban made sure his 14 possessions and seven tackles all counted for the Bulldogs as he chases a fifth premiership of his WAFL career.

To their credit, Trent Newton, Travis Abbott, George Wessels and Glenn Byron came in to play their role for the Bulldogs while workhorse ruckman Brock Higgins was superb with 10 touches and 41 hit outs.

Scoring was always going to be a challenge in the preliminary final just because of how good defensively both teams are, how well they know one another and the tight, tough and contested brand of football the Bulldogs and Tigers end up playing against one another.

That's exactly how it panned out but South Fremantle did score first when Haiden Schloithe swooped deep in the forward pocket to kick truly in heavy traffic.

South Fremantle would hold Claremont to just the one point for the entire first term and by kicking another goal thanks to the clever and dangerous 17-year-old Jesse Motlop from a tight angle on the Fremantle Prison side of the ground, he put the Bulldogs 13 points up by quarter-time.

South Fremantle took further hold of the preliminary final in the second term with an early goal to stand-in captain Mason Shaw before small forward Manfred Kelly kicked a beauty from another tight angle.

That ended up giving the Bulldogs the only four goals of the first half with the Tigers managing just the three behinds and South Fremantle in control by 26 points at the long break.

Claremont couldn’t afford to fall further behind to start the second half and the Tigers did go on the attack, but couldn’t find that elusive goal while up the other end, a clever trademark snap from Cody Ninyette saw South Fremantle extend the lead.

Schloithe kicked his second soon after and South Fremantle's lead blew out to a game high 38 points and was still 35 by three quarter-time with the Tigers remaining goalless with eight behinds to their credit.

Claremont had to throw caution to the wind in the final quarter and the Tigers did come out aggressive, trying to move the ball forward quickly and directly, and they were rewarded.

Isaac Barton kicked their first goal of the game at the two-minute mark of the last quarter and then Jye Bolton ran hard forward and ran into an open goal just three minutes later.

Then suddenly at the nine-minute mark when Callan England grabbed his chance to kick truly, Claremont's belief was building, they had all the run and momentum and were back within just 17 points.

Bolton then delivered a trademark long goal from outside 50 when given too much space and Claremont had kicked four goals in 12 minutes and the margin was just 11 points.

South Fremantle had to dig deep to stop Claremont's momentum and there would be no further score for almost 20 more minutes. It became a game of stoppage after stoppage, fierce tackling after fierce tackling, and the ball just lived between the 50m arcs.

The end result was South Fremantle held on for the 11-point victory to break the hearts of Claremont once more and reach a third successive Grand Final.


SOUTH FREMANTLE        2.2    4.5    6.7    6.7 (43)
CLAREMONT            0.1    0.3    0.8    4.8 (32)

SOUTH FREMANTLE: Goals – Schloithe 2; Ninyette, Shaw, Kelly, Motlop.
Best – Pearson, Higgins, Blechynden, Schloithe, Suban, Dragovich, N Strom.
CLAREMONT: Goals – Bolton 2; England, Barton.
Best – Bolton, Lim, Lewsey, Baldwin, Rogers, Martinis, Mountford.