IT was NAIDOC Round in the WAFL on Saturday with Steven Edwards, Adam Cockie, Tim Kelly, Kirk Ugle, Traye Bennell and Liam Ryan among the Indigenous players to shine but they were far from the only standout performers.
All four Round 16 WAFL matches took place on Saturday starting with South Fremantle ending its NAIDOC Round drought against Claremont with a 14.7 (91) to 10.6 (66) victory at Claremont Oval with Haiden Schloithe and Tim Kelly on fire.
Subiaco won a 13th straight match after a big 20.21 (141) to 9.5 (59) win over Perth at Leederville Oval with Adam Cockie and Liam Ryan among those to shine for the Lions.
Swan Districts had to work hard but eventually overcame the bottom placed East Fremantle 12.11 (83) to 11.10 (76) at Steel Blue Oval with Jamie Bennell and Kirk Ugle among those to play a key role.
A remarkably accurate Peel Thunder made an inaccurate West Perth pay at HBF Arena with the reigning premiers beating the Falcons 16.3 (99) to 9.15 (69).
Following NAIDOC Round, Subiaco (13-1) remains clear on top of the WAFL ladder ahead of South Fremantle (10-4), Peel Thunder (9-5) and Swan Districts (9-5) with West Perth (7-7) still fifth despite four consecutive defeats.
Claremont (6-8) is sixth in front of East Perth (6-7), Perth (2-13) and East Fremantle (1-13).
wafl.com.au PLAYER OF THE ROUND – ADAM COCKIE (Subiaco)
Despite having played almost 100 WAFL games, seven in the AFL with West Coast, plenty more in the VFL and representing both states over his career, he had to earn his spot at Subiaco this season highlighting just why the Lions are the standard setters in the competition.
Despite the body of work and experience he has behind him, he still couldn’t break into Subiaco's league side until Round 8 of this year and had to earn his stripes in the reserves through those first two months of 2017.
But he has fit right back into Subiaco's midfield since Round 8 with some solid form and his importance has been enhanced in the absence through injury of Chris Phelan.
He then went up another level on Saturday in celebration of NAIDOC Round to deliver his best game of the season with 30 possessions, seven tackles and seven entries inside the forward 50 as the 91-game Subiaco veteran tries to win his second premiership and first since 2008.
wafl.com.au TEAM OF THE ROUND (times named)
BACK: Steven Edwards (2), Matthew Jupp (3), Haydn Busher (3)
HALF-BACK: Jayden Schofield (6), Sam Collins (3), Charlie Le Fanu (1)
CENTRE: Adam Cockie (1), Tim Kelly (6), Scott Hancock (1)
HALF-FORWARD: Haiden Schloithe (7), Jack Perham (1), Cameron Sutcliffe (2)
FORWARD: Adam Creeper (2), Matt Taberner (3), Liam Ryan (6)
RUCK: Corey Gault (5), Jye Bolton (5), Jesse Turner (3)
INTERCHANGE: Anton Hamp (1), Josh Pullman (1), Justin Joyce (1), Blake Johnson (1)
BACK POCKET – STEVEN EDWARDS (South Fremantle)
Enjoyed his return to Claremont Oval on Saturday to play his first game at the venue in a South Fremantle jumper. Was given the job on dangerous small CJ Oakley and kept him to five kicks and one goal while providing impressive run himself out of defence with 16 possessions, six marks and a goal.
FULL-BACK – MATTHEW JUPP (East Fremantle)
Was part of an East Fremantle defence that did a tremendous job in shutting down Swan Districts' key forwards with Steven Wityk, Brayden Noble and Ricky Cary all combining for just the one goal, 14 kicks and seven marks. That went a long way to giving the Sharks a real shot at a second win for 2017 and not only was he strong defensively, but also had 23 possessions and 10 marks.
BACK POCKET – HAYDN BUSHER (Claremont)
Continues to show that he is an outstanding one-on-one defender even if he did start his career both with Perth and Claremont as a forward and pinch-hit ruckman. Was given the job on triple Bernie Naylor Medallist Ben Saunders and while the Bulldogs spearhead kicked two goals, he did a strong job in many of the one-on-one battles to go with 12 possessions for the afternoon.
HALF-BACK FLANK – JAYDEN SCHOFIELD (East Fremantle)
Continued his career-best form in his 99th game with East Fremantle having found his home across half-back where he can use his ability to win the ball, read the play and set it up well coming out of the defensive 50. Was outstanding again on Saturday against Swan Districts with 34 possessions, eight marks and four inside-50 entries.
CENTRE HALF-BACK – SAM COLLINS (Peel Thunder)
The key defender is in strong form and it is perhaps surprising he hasn’t been rewarded for his efforts with Peel by earning a regular spot at AFL level. But that is to the benefit of the Thunder and he had another strong showing in Saturday's win over West Perth. Was strong defensively while also having 25 possessions and 12 marks.
HALF-BACK FLANK – CHARLIE LE FANU (Claremont)
The Subiaco premiership defender was playing just his second league match for Claremont after a broken leg delayed his start to the 2017. But he sent a reminder of his ability to be a lockdown defender that made him such an important player at the Lions. His job was on Blaine Johnson coming off a nine-goal haul and he limited him to two goals and six kicks while also attempting to limit the impact of Haiden Schloithe at times when he was forward.
CENTRE – TIM KELLY (South Fremantle)
Claremont put plenty of time into trying to nullify and frustrate him, but he shook off that pressure particularly from direct opponent Bailey Banfield to have a significant influence on South Fremantle's win with 25 possessions, five tackles, five inside 50s and a goal. His ability to run and carry the ball, and get around opponents is a treat to watch when he's in full flight.
WING – SCOTT HANCOCK (Subiaco)
The former East Fremantle midfielder had a tremendous first season at Subiaco in 2015 culminating in the premiership before his 2016 was ruined when he required a knee reconstruction. But he has now been building strong form again on return in 2017 and his 11th league game back on Saturday was likely his best in the big win over Perth with 25 disposals, six marks, six inside-50 entries and a goal.
HALF-FORWARD FLANK – HAIDEN SCHLOITHE (South Fremantle)
He is the form player in the WAFL and going through an unstoppable patch both when playing through the midfield and resting in the forward-line. Celebrated his 100th match on Saturday with a best on ground performance in the win over Claremont. He was the best forward on the ground kicking five goals for the first time after booting four on seven previous occasions. Also racked up 27 possessions and eight marks.
CENTRE HALF-FORWARD – JACK PERHAM (East Fremantle)
The experienced forward has returned from injury and finding form and fitness in the reserves to be in a strong patch of form in attack for East Fremantle. He has really made a difference to the Sharks competitiveness and had a strong performance on Saturday kicking three goals to go with 23 disposals and 10 marks.
HALF-FORWARD FLANK – CAMERON SUTCLIFFE (Peel Thunder)
Had made his mark with Fremantle mostly at half-back but was used in attack and through the middle by Peel on Saturday and had a big say in the win over West Perth to end up with four goals to go with 23 possessions.
FORWARD POCKET – LIAM RYAN (Subiaco)
Having kicked just the eight goals in his last four matches, the Bernie Naylor Medal leader took another step towards claiming the league's leading goalkicker award for 2017 with a strong showing in Saturday's thumping of Perth. He booted four goals from 11 kicks and six marks to give him 45 goals on the season.
FULL-FORWARD – MATT TABERNER (Peel Thunder)
The key forward put his hand up once more to earn another chance in the forward-line at AFL level with Fremantle on the back of a dominant display for Peel in the win over West Perth. Kicked six goals, four of which came in the last quarter, to go with 25 possessions, 13 marks and eight hit outs for the afternoon.
FORWARD POCKET – ADAM CREEPER (Subiaco)
The big man might now be grounded with a two-match suspension, but he has shown he is the answer to Subiaco's call to find a ruckman who can combine with Lachlan Delahunty and Clancy Wheeler when he returns to share the load in the middle and as key forwards. Kicked another two goals from 15 possessions, four marks and 26 hit outs in just his fourth game on Saturday.
RUCK – COREY GAULT (Swan Districts)
The big man continues to thrive as the No. 1 ruckman at Swan Districts on return from Collingwood and had a big say in the win over East Fremantle on Saturday again. Battled hard against Michael Cronan and Matthew Watson to finish the afternoon with 20 disposals and 30 hit outs.
RUCK ROVER – JYE BOLTON (Claremont)
The reigning Sandover Medallist again showed that he's right back to the form he showed in his first WAFL season with Claremont in 2016. Was tremendous in the midfield for the Tigers despite the loss to South Fremantle finishing with 36 possessions, six tackles, five marks and four entries inside the forward 50.
ROVER – JESSE TURNER (Swan Districts)
Is emerging as one of the best young running midfielders in the WAFL and stepped up into the void left by the injured Matt Riggio in Saturday's hard fought win over East Fremantle. Finished the afternoon with 29 possessions, nine marks and four tackles.
INTERCHANGE – ANTON HAMP (Claremont)
Having celebrated his 100th game three weeks ago, continues to do his job well as a key defender for Claremont and had another strong showing against South Fremantle at Claremont Oval on Saturday. Had the job on Mason Shaw and held the Bulldogs forward scoreless and to just four kicks and one mark.
INTERCHANGE – JOSH PULLMAN (South Fremantle)
Despite having an interrupted season to some degree so far in 2017, he continues to be rock solid at full-back for South Fremantle and played a key role in Saturday's win over Claremont with his job opposed to Beau Maister. Held the Claremont veteran to one goal and three kicks while having 13 possessions and eight marks himself.
INTERCHANGE – BLAKE JOHNSON (Perth)
It wasn’t a day to remember for Perth against Subiaco on Saturday but the young big man continues to show he has a bright future. The 19-year-old might be undersized at 193cm when in the ruck, but he continues to battle hard in support of Christian Eyres while providing a good target in attack too. He finished the tough afternoon in his seventh league game with 18 possessions, eight marks, six tackles, nine hit outs and two goals.
INTERCHANGE – JUSTIN JOYCE (Subiaco)
Is yet another Subiaco midfielder playing his role well on his return to the Lions in 2017. Has now played the last eight games in the league side and is becoming a handy part of the on-ball brigade. He delivered his best game of the season also on Saturday with 24 possessions and seven marks while also kicking his first goal of the season after eight behinds.
There were plenty of players who delivered tremendous performances across Round 16 but couldn’t quite squeeze into the Team of the Round, including:
Claremont half-forward and stand in captain Ian Richardson.
South Fremantle attacking defender Marlion Pickett.
Swan Districts' Kirk Ugle, Adam Faulkner, Ryan Crowley and David Ellard.
East Fremantle's George Hampson and Dylan Winton.
Subiaco's Leigh Kitchin, Lachlan Delahunty, Corey Adamson, Kyal Horsley and Ben Sokol.
Perth's Clint Jones, Michael Sinclair and Gordon Narrier.
West Perth's Luke Meadows, Shane Nelson and Trent Manzone.
Peel Thunder's Traye Bennell, Jonathon Griffin, Haydn Matthews and Harley Balic.