Falcons tame Tigers in stunning WAFLW finish

IT ALMOST had to be seen to be believed. West Perth’s incredible transformation from league battler to WAFL Women’s premiership contender in the space of three seasons ticked another box on the weekend with a remarkable come-from-behind win with the last kick of the day to defeat Claremont by two points.

In trouble after falling 17 point down early in the fourth term, the Falcons kept clawing their way back and even still facing a 10-point deficit with three and a half minutes on the clock, they found a way. Their experience stepped up when needed, as Katherine Bennett lined up for goal with a minute to go, her side four points down.

Sensing perhaps the distance was just outside her range and the majority of the Claremont team was deep, the Falcons leader was perhaps a little perplexed, but certainly please to see Bianca Webb strolling past for the handball receive. She dished off and Webb, running to around 30m out slotted the goal with a pinpoint finish sending the visitors into jubilation.

What had just transpired was had to fathom, but as incredible as it was outstanding. Claremont, the benchmark team of the last two years, held a 17-point lead after Anjelique Raison kicked a classy goal on the run six and a half minutes into the fourth term. Earlier in the match, the Tigers had raced to a 22-0 head start in the opening term, and then a 26-point buffer late in the second, always seemingly having breathing space.

So when Raison kicked truly, the 17-point margin looked a bridge too far for a team that was admittedly on the rise, but was yet to beat one of the top two sides. However, this game was different. Midway through the term, there a one-on-one between Imahra Cameron and Lauren Hutton as they raced towards the high above football between them and the goal.

Hutton was set to get there first, only for an incredibly cruel bounce to go past her and back to Cameron. They both converged on it, with the West Perth forward coming away with the free kick and slotting the goal from 15m out, her second of the contest. The margin was back to 11 points.

The very next centre clearance came off the boot of bottom-ager Mia Russo, and a kick later the ball ended up in the arms of debutant Sophie Fisher. While the 16-year-old Fisher did miss the shot, the margin went back to 10 points, and the Falcons were hungry to keep the ball locked inside 50.

Despite Claremont’s best efforts, their rebounding and transition game that is normally so effective, simply did not work. The Falcons set up behind the ball and between crucial turnovers and rushing under pressure, the Tigers could not seem to clear the danger zone.

When reigning Dhara Kerr Medallist Jayme Harken won the free kick in the defensive 50, with less than four minutes on the clock, she smartly slowed play down, weighing up her options. She spotted a free target near the top of 50, but the high kick went over her teammate’s hands and it was Webb who was there to mop up. She took it cleanly and pumped it in to a contest in the goalsquare where Cameron used all of her forward smarts to clunk the grab.

From just five metres out and time running down, the Falcons forward wasted no time kicking the goal, putting the deficit back to just four points, and the ball back to neutral territory. The intensity around Revo Fitness Stadium – which 10 minutes earlier had been a lot calmer – was suddenly at fever pitch. The game that looked like a comfortable win was now in danger.

They had a right to be worried, as the Falcons won the next centre clearance and pumped it inside 50. After Claremont looked to continually lock the ball in, eventually it was Bennett’s tackle that earned her a free kick.

Right on her range, Bennett assessed the options. There were nine Tigers to five Falcons in the 15 metre range from goal, where the ball would likely fall. If it got rushed through, it would almost certainly be game over with Claremont able to kill what was left on the clock. Instead, Webb remained active in the play to run hard past her teammate for the handball and duly delivered off the right from 35m to slot the match-winner.

By the time the ball had returned to the middle – and an anti-density call made – the siren sounded, and the Falcons had done the unthinkable. From 10 points down with a few minutes to play and the ball in Claremont hands – not to mention the 22-0 start and 26-point deficit edging closer to half-time – West Perth had somehow snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

The win was spurred on by the experienced players of the Falcons with Webb (18 disposals, four marks, nine tackles and the match-winning goal), Emily Bennett (16 disposals, three marks and seven tackles) and Cameron (11 disposals, two marks, six tackles and three goals) all starring. Russo was also outstanding, laying six tackles to go with her 19 touches and a major, while winger Taylor Ferguson and defender Liliana Grassenis also found plenty of the ball.

It was a tough day for the Tigers who lost Claire Ortlepp – their general in defence – at team selection and then midfield dynamo Emily Bonser pre-match, with the experience left up to Jacinta Valentini, Harken and Kate Orme. All three battled their hearts out for four quarters, but ultimately could not come away with the chocolates. Claudia Wright (13 disposals, five marks and two goals) played well up forward and could have had three majors with one set shot falling short and marked on the like by Adele Arnup who kicked two herself.

The result is huge in the scheme of the WAFL Women’s season with a double chance up for grabs between the sides. Next week the Tigers take on their rivals East Fremantle, and if the Sharks get up, then the minor premiership is locked away. Not only would it mean the Tigers would have gone 1-3 in the past month, but the sole win has been against South Fremantle by a point.

However if the Tigers win, they should secure the double chance with three bottom four sides to follow. West Perth can sniff second if the Falcons get up over South Fremantle, though have a tougher third match up in the run home with a clash against Swan Districts compared to Claremont’s head-to-head with Peel Thunder, while both sides face Subiaco and East Perth.

CLAREMONT 3.4 | 5.4 | 5.4 | 6.4 (40)
WEST PERTH 1.1 | 2.3 | 3.5 | 6.6 (42)

A. Arnup 2, C. Wright 2, E. O’Donnell, A. Raison
West Perth: I. Cameron 3, B. Hongell, M. Russo, B. Webb

J. Valentini, J. Harken, K. Orme, R. Tuckey, C. Wright
West Perth: B. Webb, I. Cameron, E. Bennett, M. Russo, L. Grassenis


Subiaco continued its run towards fourth spot with a commanding 10-goal victory over East Perth. Despite missing star youngster Olivia Wolmarans, the Lions piled on 20 scoring shots to five and kept the Royals goalless until the final quarter in a 10.10 (70) to 1.4 (10) result.

Kate Pocsidio kicked three goals in the victory, while ruck Tess Lyons starred with 18 disposals, five marks, 27 hitouts and a goal. Mikayla Smith and Leila Rowe were again impressive, while Eva Popovsky was dangerous as always. For the Royals, Lucy Greenwood stepped up with 19 disposals and eight tackles, while Alessia Schmiedgen and Sarah Madden also tried hard.

Swan Districts snatched fourth spot with a hard-fought 11-point win over South Fremantle at home. Level at quarter time, the Black Ducks surged ahead to lead by as much as 22 points late in the third term, before South Fremantle came hard. The Bulldogs kicked the last two goals of the match, but ultimately fell short, 8.8 (56) to 7.3 (45).

Naomi Baker (26 disposals, six marks and three tackles) was superb working alongside the duo of Lily Paterson (22 disposals, four marks and five tackles) and Kayley King (21 disposals, six tackles and a goal) in the middle. For the Bulldogs, Hunter Cronin and Noa McNaughton stood up, while top AFLW Draft hope Molly O’Hehir had to come off early in the match with a knee injury, but was able to leave the field on her own volition.

It was all one-way traffic for reigning premiers East Fremantle as the Sharks smashed Peel Thunder by 105 points down in Mandurah. The Sharks piled on nine goals in the first half, and another seven in the second, to keep their opponents scoreless and secure a massive 16.9 (105) to 0.0 (0) win.

Zippy Fish had the ball on a string once again with 29 disposals, six marks, four tackles and two goals through the match, while Chloe Wrigley and Ashleigh Gomes were prolific once again. The Sharks forward cued up to fill their boots as teenagers Tiani Teakle (four goals) and debutant Alicia Blizard (three goals) both had days out in front of goal. Despite the heavy loss, Holly Britton played her best game of WAFLW football with 29 touches and six marks, while defenders Evie Cowcher and Ebony Dowson were also prominent.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments