Tigers roar in thrilling WAFLW trequel

IT JUST had to be the underdog. Even though history warned everyone, it was hard to believe that for a third successive season, the second placed team could usurp the impressive minor premiers. But, as it turns out, history continues to repeat and it was Claremont that triumphed over East Fremantle in a wet and windy slog by just three points at Pentanet Stadium yesterday.

It was a match that had it all, with the Tigers booting the first two goals of the match, East Fremantle not scoring until 14 minutes into the third term, then somehow hitting the front in the dying minutes before Claremont found a way with its first goal in 53 minutes to claim the flag.

While the final score read 3.2 (20) to 2.5 (17), make no mistake it was edge-of-your-seat action that only grew more tense as the match went on. Reigning back-to-back Dhara Kerr Medallist Jayme Harken won the Lou Knitter Medal for best on ground, battling her way through four quarters to thrive in the mud and ensure her team got over the line.

But she was far from alone. The work of young gun Juliet Kelly who hit almost every pass she made, while keeping star Zippy Fish relatively quiet for a half. However the moment Kelly went off in an unfortunate marking contest, the game opened up and Fish began to take control. She ran onto a bomb inside 50 to soccer home her side’s first major, naturally off the non-preferred left as well.

At the start of the fourth term, she burst out of the first centre clearance and hit up Mylee Leitch on the lead, and produced some elite passes inside 50 to Ashlee Atkins as she Sharks dominated field position in the last term. It was an incredible final quarter considering the Tigers could have put the game to bed far earlier.

At half-time, Claremont led contested possessions by 14 (57-43) and clearances by eight (23-15), yet the Sharks had 12 inside 50s to 10. It was truly a game between the arc, which saw more end-to-end action in the second half.

However goals in the first half to Bec Anderson and Adele Arnup ensured the Tigers got the jump on their opponents. Missing the first set shot of the game, Anderson got a second chance from a near identical spot 20m from goal and made no mistake. Arnup used her forward craft to nudge – though perhaps even as far as a push – Natasha Entwistle to take a grab and convert her set shot.

The young pairing of Entwistle and Taya Chambers had been very good providing run, while defender Leanne Gubbins kept them in the contest in the early stages of the match. However the work of Harken through midfield and bottom-ager Kelly on Fish was ensuring that the Tigers were on top.

It looked like Claremont would always have its way given the first half, but when East Fremantle dominated the front half possession as the rain began to bucket down, it looked like one goal would win the game. That goal came when Atkins put the ball deep inside 50 and it travelled over hands for Alicia Blizard to run onto it and slot home what many would assume was the winning goal.

However the history between these two sides means there was always going to be another twist in the saga. That twist came in the last couple of minutes when Claremont won a holding free at the half-forward ruck stoppage.

Getting the go-ahead to take advantage, AFLW Academy member Claudia Wright thumped the ball inside 50. Though it was locked up, the next stoppage saw Kelly fire out a handball to the experienced Kate Orme, who despite being tackled managed to get ball to boot. It tumbled favourably into the arms of Rachel Ortlepp who graciously accepted and kicked the winning goal.

Despite going ahead with just two minutes left on the clock, the game was far from safe. East Fremantle was looking to roll the dice at all costs, while Claremont threw numbers back behind the ball now intent on saving the game.

At one stage in the last 30 seconds Fish took a mark on the wing and was held onto on the ground so two teammates dragged her Claremont opponent off her just so she could play on and run. It got to the point where Jacinta Valentini had the ball inside defensive 50 and put it on the boot to clear, only for Tiani Teakle to mark 55m out.

Though a booming kick, needing to kick 60m in the pouring rain was something Teakle knew was beyond her. With five seconds on the clock she thew it on the boot as far as she could needing a mark. There was a mark, but it was to Valentini who took it safely as the siren sounded. As she lifted the ball up, the mix of emotions flooded the field with Claremont declared premiers and East Fremantle having to rue what could have been.

Harken finished with 22 disposals, five marks and four tackles in the win, though Orme (17 disposals, three marks and seven tackles) and Kelly (16 disposals, two marks and five tackles) were also influential in the game and standouts throughout the four quarters. The work of Wright in crunch moments was important while Claire Ortlepp saved the day on a number of occasions.

For East Fremantle, Gubbins was enormous for four quarters, working well alongside Chambers, while Fish seemed destined to rip the game away from the Tigers with her performance in the second half. Sharon Wong and Ashleigh Gomes also battled hard for four quarters in defeat.

EAST FREMANTLE 0.0 | 0.3 | 1.4 | 2.5 (17)
CLAREMONT 1.2 | 2.2 | 2.2 | 3.2 (20)

East Fremantle:
A. Blizard, Z. Fish
Claremont: A. Arnup, R. Ortlepp, B. Anderson


East Fremantle: L. Gubbins, Z. Fish, T. Chambers, S. Wong, A. Gomes
Claremont: J. Harken, J. Kelly, K. Orme, C. Wright, C. Ortlepp

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