A STUNNING four consecutive goals through the middle two quarters of the 2022 West Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s Grand Final helped Claremont strike at the perfect time to end East Fremantle in the game that mattered most. In a heartbreaking result for the blue and whites, East Fremantle found out the hard way that no matter how good a side can be during the minor rounds of a home and away season, it takes just one game on the biggest stage, for it to all come crashing down.
Claremont was absolutely superb, saving its best performance for the first Sunday in July, and, aside from nervously concerding four consecutive goals in the space of 12 minutes from midway in the first term through until early in the second term, generally controlled the majority of the play. Once it was all said and done, it was the the second placed Tigers, at their home ground of Revo Fitness Stadium, who ran away with the eight-point victory, 7.4 (46) to 6.2 (38) to seal the 2022 WAFL Women’s premiership.
The match itself was a momentum-swinging contest with Claremont captain Rachel Ortlepp kicking two goals within the first eight minutes. The first major was a sweet one to open the match, with sister Claire putting in a perfect kick to set up the goal from a set shot. Five minutes later, Rachel pounced on a loose ball after some great ground work from veteran forward Brooke Whyte and the Tiers were out to a 12-point lead.
Having been jumped early, the Sharks steadied as expected, with their first goal of the grand final coming off the boot of young gun Anjelique Raison who cleverly kicked it off the deck three minutes after Ortlepp’s second to create a response. East Fremantle was starting to have more attacking plays in the second half of the opening term, dominating in the ruck and winning the clearances, and soon Raison would add her second goal to match Ortlepp too, marking inside 50 and turning quickly to not waste anytime and slot another on the stroke of quarter time to level the scores.
Dhara Kerr Medallist Sharon Wong and AFLW-experienced Jasmin Stewart were finding plenty of the pill and having an influence in the second term, as the Sharks continued where they left off from the first quarter. Just 90 seconds into the match, Wong found a loose Mylee Leitch who put it into the goalsquare to resting 190cm ruck Laura Catherine who was grabbed by a Tigers defender. She slotted a goal from 15m out. As if the game theme was everything must come in twos, Catherine joined Ortlepp and Raison as a multiple goalkicker just a minute later, when she won it again at the top of the goalquare and quickly slammed it home. East Fremantle was 12 points up and here to play.
The first blemish on the scoreboard after six straight goals came from West Coast recruit Mikayla Western, as the Tigers steadied and had to work their way back into the contest. A nice individual passage of play from Kate Orme saw the winger hit up a sliding Whyte for the forward to make no mistake from the set shot. Then, right before the half-time siren, a dissent free kick against Madeline Ross proved costly for the Sharks, as Sarah Garstone went from 60m out to almost point-blank to make no mistake and allow her side to hit the front again, this time by a point.
It got the Claremont supporters up and about again, as the Tigers used the momentum either side of the half-time break to build a 14-point lead, the largest of the game. Garstone had a brilliant third term after Alex Williams had done so well controlling the back 50 for the Sharks. Stewart continued to win the ball at will, and everything was going the Tigers way. A big clash from Claremont’s Tayla Thorogood and East Fremantle’s Hayley O’Donnell saw both players courageously put their bodies on the line in a marking contest, whilst Garstone – who had crashed the pack, ran forward to set up a chance to Whyte who would just miss the set shot.
With Kobi Nichols creating some run through the middle, the Tigers were looking more dangerous, and then after a free kick downfield, Ortlepp put it to a dangerous spot close to goal, for the incredible Western to rove off hands and snap around her body to make the lead 14. A response from Leitch came three minutes later when captain Ashleigh Gomes thumped the ball inside 50 for the teenager to run onto and slam home on the run, and then she almost had a second goal before State Academy defender Mackenzie Webb rushed it across the line. By the final break, the Sharks had trimmed the deficit back to a manageable seven points.
About 20 minutes stood between both teams and etching their names in the history books, and it was Claremont who started to believe with a dominant first five minutes. Whyte and Ortlepp combined again going forward, with the captain winning it 15m out and wasting no time before turning and snapping a goal to give her side a 13-point lead. The Tigers kept attacking with both Whyte and Katherine Bennett having chances but just missing, through now the lead was out to 15 points, and the Sharks would need three goals to win.
East Fremantle rolled the dice and threw everything at the Claremont defence in the second half, as the Sharks desperately tried to get home. A quick snap from Catherine at the 10 and a half minute mark saw Webb again save the day with a rush behind, but it would be a brainfade from the impressive Madeleine Scanlon that would give the Sharks a sniff. The Tigers defender/midfielder had been strong up until that point in the final five minutes of the match, but at the top of 50 opted for a meek throw back to Catherine who won the free kick, and was subsequently penalised. From just outside the goalsquare, Catherine made no mistake slotting the goal to cut it back to eight points and keep the dream alive.
East Fremantle continued to dare to dream throughout the final five minutes, but could not kick that winning score, as Claremont held up and took time off the clock to slate, 7.4 (46) to 6.2 (38). The Tigers players ran onto the field at the final siren in pure jubilation, getting the unbelievable done without reigning Dhara Kerr Medallist and captain Ella Smith, fellow midfielders Sasha Goranova and the unjured Emily Elkington, and dangerous goalsneak Tessa Doumanis.
In their place, Stewart stood up against in brilliantly, with so many individual players making a brilliant side on the day. Orme and Western provided the run, Ortlepp the target inside 50, and Whyte being the roaming forward who also hit the scoreboard. Adele Arnup battled away as an undersized ruck, giving away 17cm in height to Catherine. For the Sharks, Wong kept trying throughout the game, Beth Beckett was busy, and youngster Taya Chambers kept the ball moving. Catherine dominated the ruck and booted the three goals when forward, and Raison kicked those two important first quarter goals and also went into the ruck. It would not be enough though, with Claremont proving too good on the day, and in the match that counted.
EAST FREMANTLE 2.0 | 4.0 | 5.1 | 6.2 (38)
CLAREMONT 2.0 | 4.1 | 6.2 | 7.4 (46)
East Fremantle: L. Catherine 3, A. Raison 2, M. Leitch
Claremont: R. Ortlepp 3, M. Western, S. Garstone, B. Whyte, T. Thorogood
East Fremantle: S. Wong, B. Beckett, L. Catherine, A. Raison. T. Chambers
Claremont: J. Stewart, K. Orme, R. Ortlepp, M. Western. B. Whyte