Rolling Thunder roaring Lion: WAFL grand final preview by Les Everett

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RECENTLY I spoke to a former AFL player, one who played at two clubs. I asked whether he aligns himself with one of them now. He said he’d become something of a footy agnostic, still loving the game but unaligned.

THE AFL alignment has turned me into an agnostic in the WAFL. A life-long East Perth supporter and one-time member of the club I just can’t support them under the current alignment with the West Coast Eagles. When it ends, and it will, I’ll renew my membership and go back to being black and blue.

I remain a WAFL supporter, go to a game each weekend and have seen plenty of the this year’s grand final participants Subiaco and Peel.

The AFL alignment is the big talking point leading up the grand final. Peel, boosted by 15 Fremantle-listed players, won the qualifying final against South Fremantle and beat Subiaco in the second semi – “crushed” them both according to some reports. In reality the Bulldogs and the Lions closed in on Thunder in the last quarter but missed crucial shots for goal. Some fans are wringing their hands, “How can we beat them?” they ask. Some fringe Dockers will be putting their hands out for boosted contracts given how much they’ve been talked up in recent weeks.

So who are these unbeatable Dockers playing for Peel? Let’s have a look at them…

Sam Collins (played two AFL games in 2017 and 17 for Peel in the home and away season), Brennan Cox (10, 9), Sean Darcy (8, 11), Zac Dawson (2, 15),  Josh Deluca (4, 7),  Taylin Duman (0, 14), Jon Griffin (7, 12), Garrick Ibbotson (10, 9), Griffin Logue (13, 9), Ryan Nyhaus (4, 10), Danyle Pearce (7, 8), Luke Ryan (11, 6), Tom Sheridan (9, 7), Nick Suban (12, 7), Cameron Sutcliffe( (13, 6), Matt Taberner (8, 13). You might notice that’s 16 players… the limit is 15. Cox hasn’t played in the finals so if he comes in one Docker from the second semi will drop out.

There’s no doubt the finals eligibility rules for the alignment clubs will be changed again in 2018 (in the 2016 Peel was allowed 17 Fremantle-listed players in the grand final). My observation, not peered reviewed, is that the tipping point for Peel is about 10 Dockers – fewer than that and they tend to struggle. One proposal is for a player to be ineligible for finals if he’s played more AFL games in the season than WAFL – this year it would rule out Cox, Ibbotson, Logue, Ryan, Sheridan, Suban and Sutcliffe.

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Subiaco Football Club moved to Leederville Oval in 2004. The move from their traditional home at Subiaco Oval came with a deal that allowed the club to sell packages to AFL games and gave the Lions a nice ongoing financial boost. Success followed. Subiaco won the WAFL premiership in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2014 and 2015 and were runner-up in 2009, 2011, 2014 and 2015. Sunday’s grand final appearance will be their 10th in 14 years since making Leederville their home.

YKyleHartiganou only have to watch the Lions warm up prior to a game to see how well drilled and well led they are. The strengths are many – a powerful midfield led by captain Kyal Horsely complemented by Leigh Kitchen, Adam Cockie and Chris Phelan who is returning to the team after a long injury lay-off; a well organised defence and an exciting forward line including the brilliant Liam Ryan, small forward Liam Baker and clever smallish forward Kyle Halligan (left). Also key to Subi’s success are mobile big men Clancy Wheeler and Lachlan Delahunty.

SamCollinsPeel looked stronger than their opponents in the two finals and the presence of full-time footballers is a big factor. Subiaco’s lack of a tall ruckman was an issue in the second semi when Darcy and Griffin dominated however expected wet conditions could favour the Lions in that area. Peel also has a very tight defence. Collins (above) is the leader of this group and all are AFL-listed. Thunder’s forward line is unusual. Taberner’s marking ability and running capacity make him a big threat while Leroy Jetta and captain Gerald Ugle are strong and dangerous as is contested ball expert Blair Bell. And speaking of unusual the forward line also contains Dawson who has averaged 3.42 kicks a game during his 166-game AFL career. Maybe Subiaco coach Jarrad Schofield can come up with a plan to exploit this anomaly in the Thunder attacking armoury. 

It promises to be a very interesting grand final. Exciting too if the weather stays away. There will be whinging if Peel manage to win but the grand old fading Subiaco Oval has seen its share of that over the years.

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