A ferocious West Perth will take on Subiaco in the grand final after producing one of the biggest turnarounds in WAFL finals history to evict South Fremantle from the premiership race.
Thrashed by South Fremantle by 98 points in the qualifying final two weeks ago, West Perth produced a mirror image of that performance to beat the Bulldogs by 26 points at Fremantle Oval on Sunday.
The 124-point turnaround was based in fierce pressure around the ball and the ability to close down South’s prime movers in Marlion Pickett and Mason Shaw.
Pickett was kept to 15 touches and Shaw to 1.5.
Both were prominent in the last term as the game was played primarily in South Fremantle’s forward line half but the Bulldogs missed five set shots to squander their chances while Andrew Strijk’s brace of accurate long bombs ripped the heart out of the home team.
The 15.7 (97) to 9.17 (71) result was South Fremantle’s third consecutive preliminary final loss and provided a melancholy farewell for stalwart Ashton Hams after a career that included 205 matches for the Bulldogs, flags in 2005 and 2009, two Simpson medals and a successful stint at West Coast.
Luke Meadows does not have the profile of his midfield colleagues Aaron Black and Shane Nelson, both of whom could be on the Sandover medal leaderboard tonight, but his incisive and deep kicking was one of the key features in West Perth exposing the home team’s moribund first half.
In the most telling of his 24 possessions, Meadows pulled in a spectacular mark deep in defence in the second term, speared a pass to Keegan Knott whose long kick then found Andrew Strijk within range.
The Bernie Naylor medallist’s first goal took the lead to 28 points and helped his team stymie a series of South Fremantle attacks.
When Strijk kicked another goal from outside the 50m arc midway through the third term to extend the lead to 41, West Perth had built a barrier than the Bulldogs could not overcome.
West Perth twinned considerable efficiency to their constant physicality by kicking seven goals from 10 inside 50m marks in the first half.
South, by contrast, were harried and hurried in defence and attack and battled to find any fluency or productive ball movement despite the strong efforts of reigning Sandover medallist Haiden Schloithe and ruckman Brock Higgins’ wholehearted endeavours with 56 hit outs and 21 disposals.
West Perth started as though the 98 point loss their last meeting was a distant memory.
The Falcons came with a defensive mindset that saw them lay 28 tackles in the opening term.
Spearhead Tyler Keitel attacked the football in ferocious fashion and provided space and opportunities for his smaller colleagues.
Keunen struck first but Knott slotted a neat kick from 40m to get the next and the recalled Rudy Riddoch landed an exquisite set shot from outside the 50m line.
The home team was restricted to just eight inside 50s in the term with many of them coming under extreme pressure.
South captain Dylan Main’s accurate set shot after a strong mark rewarded his team for their strong work in the middle but it was their only precise attacking move of the first half-hour.
South Fremantle: 1.1 2.5 4.2 9. 17 (71)
West Perth: 4.2 9.4 11.7 15.7 (97)
Goals: South Fremantle – Donaldson 2, Pearson, Higgins, Main, Shaw, Pickett, Parker, Hams
West Perth – Strijk 4, Riddoch 2, Black, Chalmers, Wilhelm, Van Berlo, Keunen, Peirce, Knott, Keitel, West