SOUTH Fremantle has avoided making an unwanted slice of history by overpowering Claremont in a fiercely contested preliminary final at Fremantle Community Bank Oval winning by five goals to book in a Grand Final opportunity against Subiaco.
Having lost the previous three preliminary finals, South Fremantle would have become the first team in WAFL history to lose four in-a-row if Claremont had prevailed, and at half-time that looked well and truly on the cards.
Despite appearing no real reason for it, all the scoring in the first three quarters went to the Fremantle Hospital end of Fremantle Community Bank Oval.
South Fremantle kicked three goals to nil in the first quarter and then Claremont responded with the only three goals of the second term, all coming in the space of five minutes just before half-time with the Tigers going into the main break leading by five points.
But it was all the Bulldogs from there kicking the only three goals of the third quarter and then bucking the trend of the afternoon, to kick the last three goals of the contest to the non-scoring end to come away winning 9.9 (63) to 4.9 (33).
The win sees South Fremantle into its first Grand Final now since 2009 when they did beat Subiaco at Subiaco Oval.
The Bulldogs will take on the Lions next Sunday at Optus Stadium in a Grand Final that has been four years in the making in a lot of ways with Subiaco and South Fremantle having finished first and second on the ladder in each of the past four seasons, and meeting in the finals series on each occasion.
Claremont battled bravely but in the end just couldn’t win enough of the ball and when they went forward, couldn’t find an avenue to goal.
Outside of a five-minute burst just before half-time, Claremont only kicked one goal the rest of the match and South Fremantle kicked six goals to one in the second half. However, Claremont does have both its reserves and colts teams in Grand Finals.
It was a high pressure game as you would expect with a Grand Final spot on the line and in a game with low possession counts, South Fremantle winning 285 possessions to Claremont's 232 was telling.
The Bulldogs also took 24 more marks and in the end had just one more inside-50 entry but had 18 scoring shots to 13 to end up winning by 30 points.
As it turned out, Jacob Dragovich was the only multiple goal scorer in the game kicking three of them for South Fremantle all showing his quality and nose for the goals despite being a prolific midfielder. He also had 16 possessions and 12 tackles.
It wasn’t a game for big possession tallies for individuals but Jake Florenca finished with 28 disposals for the Bulldogs while Haiden Schloithe collected 25 touches to go with 10 tackles and what proved to be the match-sealing goal.
Steve Verrier also collected 17 possessions for South Fremantle, Kyle Russell 14 and ruckman Brock Higgins 13 to go with 42 hit outs, four tackles and three marks.
South Fremantle's back-line was outstanding led by Blayne Wilson whose intercept marking was critical in the final result. He finished with 13 possessions and six marks while Chad Pearson also had 19 disposals and five marks, and Nick Suban 16 touches.
Noah Strom was also tremendous holding Claremont spearhead Tom Lee scoreless and to two kicks.
The numbers for all of Claremont's prime movers were well down on their usual but dual Sandover and Simpson Medallist Jye Bolton still racked up 25 possessions and four tackles.
Bailey Rogers tried hard to provide some drive out of the back-line with 18 possessions while Lachlan Martinis did the same with his 13 disposals along with five tackles.
Dylan Smallwood had the job at full-back most of the day on Mason Shaw and did well limiting him to one goal while Jack Lewsey also did well in his battle with South Fremantle small forward Brandon Donaldson.
Jared Hardisty finished with 14 possessions and nine tackles as well for the Tigers while Ryan Lim had 14 disposals and eight tackles, Harry McCracken 14 touches and Kane Mitchell 14 possessions and four tackles.
Meanwhile earlier the day, West Perth won its way into the reserves Grand Final against Claremont next Sunday morning at Optus Stadium by winning the preliminary final over East Fremantle 14.13 (97) to 7.8 (50).
Liam Tedesco kicked three goals for West Perth with Brayden Antonio, Mitch Antonio and Tom Medhat all kicking two apiece.
Tom Boyes gathered 26 possessions for the Falcons, Nathan Murray 23, Brayden Antonio 20, Tedesco 19, Conal Lynch 17 (10 tackles), Tyson Moulton 16 and Troy Yukich 11 to go with 46 hit outs, four tackles and a goal.
Jack Perham and Matthew Burton kicked goals each for East Fremantle.
Jesse Adamini finished with 19 possessions and 13 tackles for the Sharks while Ryan Lester-Smith had 16 disposals, Sean Fletcher 15, Jayden Quill 15, Matthew Burton 14 and Harry Creasey 14.
OPTUS WAFL FINALS SERIES
SOUTH FREMANTLE 3.2 3.3 6.7 9.9 (63)
CLAREMONT 0.5 3.8 3.8 4.9 (33)
SOUTH FREMANTLE – Goals: Dragovich 3; Main, Russell, Schloithe, Shaw, Stewart, Strom.
Best: Wilson, Dragovich, Florenca, Schloithe, Higgins, Pearson, Suban, N Strom.
CLAREMONT – Goals: Hamp, Law, Mountford, Waterman.
Best: Rogers, Bolton, Lim, Lewsey, J Hardisty, Waterman.