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Friday, October 1, 2021 - 7:24 PM by Chris Pike

SOUTH Fremantle is into a third successive Grand Final and with the chance to go back-to-back for the first time in nearly 70 years the Bulldogs will be looking to make the most of another crack at Subiaco at Optus Stadium.

South Fremantle has won 14 WAFL premierships dating back to the first triumph in 1916 and the most recent flag came last year for the Bulldogs in the historic win over Claremont at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.

The Bulldogs went back-to-back in 1916 and 1917, then again in 1947-48, and then there was the premiership hat-trick of 1952-53-54 but outside of that, and Saturday at Optus provides a chance for back-to-back South Fremantle premierships for the first time in 67 years.

There's more history at stake for South Fremantle too with a win on Saturday being the first ever for the Bulldogs at Optus Stadium in just their second game at the stadium after the loss to Subiaco in the 2019 Grand Final.

Saturday also presents the chance to snap the run of six consecutive finals losses for South Fremantle against Subiaco dating back to 2016.

There are plenty of reasons for the Bulldogs to be a motivated force come Saturday afternoon at Optus Stadium when the ball in bounced at 3.20pm in the 2021 WAFL Grand Final against Subiaco, but the reality is no more incentive is ever needed than trying to win a premiership.

South Fremantle is shooting for a 15th WAFL premiership in what is the Bulldogs' 32nd Grand Final appearance and third in-a-row on the back of losing to Subiaco in 2019 and then beating Claremont to win the flag in 2020.

Saturday's contest will be the fourth time that South Fremantle and Subiaco have meet in a Grand Final with all of them happening this century. The first clash was at Subiaco Oval in 2006 with Subiaco winning by 83 points.

South Fremantle got one back in 2009 by beating Subiaco by 18 points before that clash in 2019 at Optus Stadium where the Lions defeated the Bulldogs by 96 points.

Subiaco and South Fremantle have regularly occupied the top two positions dating back to 2016, and it's again the case in 2021 with the minor premiership only going the way of the Lions when they clung to a final round victory against the Bulldogs.

The two teams are about to meet in a seventh finals clash over that period as well and while Subiaco have won all six of those previous match ups, it's South Fremantle who comes into the clash as the reigning premiers.

Any goal during the Grand Final on Saturday will be cherished given just how stingy both clubs have been throughout 2021.

The Lions have been remarkably tight conceding only 62.7 points a game in 2021. Only once did they give up 100 points and in 12 of their 19 games did they have 11 goals or fewer kicked against them.

There is the experienced brigade of Jordan Lockyer, Aaron Heal, Angus Dewar, Hayden Kennedy and Drew Rohde showing the way and if they can hold up like they have throughout the season, South Fremantle kicking a winning score will be quite the challenge.

That doesn’t mean South Fremantle's back-line isn’t strong too. The Bulldogs only gave up 65.7 points this season and are fresh off holding Claremont to a lowest preliminary final score in history.

Blayne Wilson nor Blake Schlensog might be there for South Fremantle on Saturday, but Noah Strom and Chad Pearson will anchor the defence alongside Jason Maskos and youngsters Aiden Hall, Toby McQuilkin and Trent Newton.

Both teams have lively forward lines too. It just might not be the occasion for a big bag, kicking three might make for a match-winning performance. 

So who out of Subiaco's Ben Sokol, Jack Mayo, Harry Marsh, Max Walters, Michael Braut, Brandon Matera and Nick Martin, or South Fremantle's Mason Shaw, Jimmy Miller, Cody Ninyette, Manfred Kelly and Haiden Schloithe could be pivotal.

Given the strong defensive units at both ends of the Grand Final teams, first use out of the middle and giving your forwards first chance is going to be pivotal. 

The ruck battle between Subiaco's Lachlan Delahunty and Brock Higgins will be fascinating too. Higgins will win the hit out battle but which midfield group gets on top won't be as simple as that.

Both run deep through there, though, with the Lions led by Leigh Kitchin, Greg Clark, Harry Marsh, Wil Hickmott and Liam Hickmott, and the Bulldogs by Nick Suban, Tom Blechynden, Jacob Dragovich, Matthew Parker, Schloithe and Jake Florenca.

You also have Chad Harris up against Zac Strom out on a wing and really, anywhere you look will be pivotal match ups that could help to decide the 2021 premiership.

Throughout the season, South Fremantle was the best first quarter team in the competition outscoring their opponents by 160 points while Subiaco was ranked third.

The Lions were then ranked first in second quarters outscoring their opponents by 222 points with the Bulldogs second with a 158-point differential. 

Fascinatingly, Subiaco is then ranked last across all 10 teams in third quarters being outscored by 118 points while South Fremantle was placed third winning their third terms by 93 points. 

Then in last quarters, the Lions are back to being ranked best at plus 126 points with the Bulldogs ninth at minus 58 points.

This will also be the seventh finals meeting between the two teams over the past six years and Subiaco has dominated that recent period. Along the way, the Lions have beaten the Bulldogs in four second semi-finals, a preliminary final and then that 2019 Grand Final.

Subiaco also more recently beat South Fremantle by 22 points in the second semi-final two weeks ago at Leederville Oval. The Lions opened up a 40-point lead by early in the third term and while the Bulldogs mounted a fightback, they couldn’t quite bridge the gap.

That saw the Lions move straight into the Grand Final on the back of also having a week off to start the finals, while the Bulldogs had to lick their wounds and deal with the absence of Dylan Main, Blayne Wilson, Brandon Donaldson and Blake Schlensog to take on Claremont in the preliminary final.

South Fremantle went on to keep Claremont goalless for three quarters and then held on for the 11-point win to book in their appearance in a third straight Grand Final as they now attempt to go back-to-back for the first time since the hat-trick of 1952-53-54.

Nick Suban could win the fifth WAFL flag of his Claremont, Peel Thunder and South Fremantle career.

Haiden Schloithe, Jacob Dragovich, Tom Blechynden, Cody Ninyette, Chad Pearson, Zac Strom, brock Higgins, Mason Shaw, Jimmy Miller, Noah Strom and Jason Maskos are the players trying to go back-to-back with the Bulldogs along with Suban.