PRECIOUS little has separated South Fremantle and Claremont right throughout the 2019 WAFL season and now it's only fitting they lock horns in Sunday's preliminary final for a place in the Grand Final.
The Bulldogs and Tigers went neck and neck over second position for much of the 2019 Optus WAFL Premiership Season with South Fremantle just managing to claim second position by finishing one game ahead.
But in the end, South Fremantle only held on to that second position by a goal which is what they beat West Perth by in the final round. Had they lost that game, Claremont had done enough to earn a superior percentage to claim second spot had they been on the same number of wins.
South Fremantle and Claremont then met in the qualifying final at Fremantle Community Bank Oval and even though the Bulldogs did lead by 38 points at one point, the Tigers finished full of running.
South Fremantle won the game by seven points but given the momentum Claremont finished with, both teams would have seen enough to take heart from that contest.
Now they meet again in this Sunday's preliminary final with the prize being a spot in next Sunday's WAFL Grand Final against Subiaco at Optus Stadium.
South Fremantle is playing in its fourth successive preliminary final and attempting to win through to a first Grand Final since 2009. Claremont is playing in its first preliminary final since 2013 and trying to advance to a first Grand Final appearance since 2012.
As well as losing the preliminary finals of the past three years to West Perth, Subiaco and Peel Thunder, the Bulldogs have actually lost their previous four preliminary finals they have appeared in having also lost to Subiaco by 95 points back in 2007.
While Claremont won premierships in 2011 and 2012 and has played in Grand Finals as well in 2007 and 2010, the Tigers haven't won a preliminary final since beating Subiaco in 2005 at Subiaco Oval. They would go on to lose the Grand Final to South Fremantle a year later.
South Fremantle and Claremont have only ever battled in three preliminary finals previously with the Bulldogs winning each of them. The last was a three-point win in 2006 in a high-quality contest that seemed to end with a premature siren in the final quarter
South Fremantle also beat Claremont in 2001 preliminary final by eight points and in 1952 by 36 points with each of those three taking place at Subiaco Oval.
The game will bounce down at 3.10pm on Sunday afternoon at Fremantle Community Bank Oval and will be broadcast live on Channel 7.
Preliminary final day at Fremantle Community Bank Oval begins with the colts at 9.45 with Claremont playing West Perth for the right to take on Peel Thunder in the Grand Final.
The reserves preliminary final then begins at 12.20pm with West Perth playing East Fremantle with the winning to play Claremont in the Grand Final next Sunday at Optus Stadium.
All signs point to the preliminary final between South Fremantle and Claremont being a tremendous contest and both teams certainly know each other well having met three times already in the past 10 weeks, and twice within the space of three weeks before last weekend.
Their first meeting for the season was in NAIDOC Week at Claremont's Revo Fitness Stadium with the Tigers overrunning the Bulldogs on that occasion to win by 16 points.
The return clash at Fremantle Community Bank Oval took place in Round 19 where South Fremantle won by 33 points with that result all but locking away second position and home ground advantage in the qualifying final.
South Fremantle was then 39 points up midway through the third quarter of that qualifying final but Claremont kicked five of the game's last six goals to close the final margin to just seven points.
That set up South Fremantle to take on Subiaco in last Sunday's preliminary final at Leederville Oval. The Bulldogs took the challenge up to the Lions but Subiaco kicked six goals in a purple patch in the third quarter to set up an eventual 34-point victory.
Claremont was on home soil to host the West Coast Eagles in the first semi-final and it a tight, dour affair, the Tigers ended up prevailing by a goal to set up the rematch in the preliminary final with South Fremantle this Sunday.
Precious little has separated both teams in all areas this season and after a seven-point margin in the qualifying final, it's hard to see anything but a tightly contested preliminary final.
Throughout out the home and away season, South Fremantle averaged 86.4 points a game while conceding 67.3 while Claremont scored 76.0 and gave up just 57.9. The Bulldogs scored 344 more points than they conceded while Claremont's difference was 326.
Across the season, Claremont averaged 342.9 disposals a game while their opponents gathered 304.1 while South Fremantle picked up 336.0 per match and had 314.2 won against them. The Tigers averaged 38.8 more possessions a game than their opposition and the Bulldogs 21.8.
Across each individual quarters, South Fremantle won its first quarters by 84 points and Claremont theirs by 53. In second terms, the Bulldogs outscored their opponents by 108 points and the Tigers theirs by 70.
Then in third quarters, Claremont was the best in the league with a 153 points differential while South Fremantle did still win theirs by 86 points. Then in last terms, the Bulldogs won theirs by 66 points and the Tigers by 50.
Offensively, South Fremantle scored the most points in the competition in third quarter while Claremont were the best in the league defensively in third terms.
OPTUS WAFL FINALS SERIES
SOUTH FREMANTLE (13-5, 2nd) v CLAREMONT (12-6, 3rd) – FREMANTLE COMMUNITY BANK OVAL, SUNDAY 3.10PM
Live scores, stats
Broadcast – Channel 7, 720 ABC Perth, 91.3 SportFM, KIX Digital