Select grade below

WAFLW GRAND FINAL Wrap Up with Jacob Landsmeer - Thanks to The Left Bank

Tuesday, July 9, 2024 - 11:50 AM

Sharks suffer Grand Final Heatbreak as Tigers claw home

East Fremantle’s push for back-to-back premierships has fallen agonisingly short, suffering a heartbreaking three-point defeat at the hands of Claremont at Pentanet Stadium on Sunday in the 2024 WAFL Women’s Grand Final.

In heavy conditions and squally rain in the second half, it looked like the minor premiers had snatched the decider off Claremont when Alicia Blizzard snapped a goal at the 14-minute mark of the final term, only for the Tigers to find a last gasp match winner from Rachel Ortlepp four minutes later, sealing the 3.2 (20) to 2.5 (17) triumph for Claremont.

It was the Tigers second flag in three seasons, another incredible contest between the two standout clubs of the WAFL Women’s competition.

It was the third successive Grand Final between the clubs, both previous premierships won by the underdog defeating previously undefeated teams, Claremont (2022) and East Fremantle (2023) producing upsets on the biggest day of the season.

The clubs had played out a tense second semi-final a fortnight earlier, the Sharks clinging on to win by three points to book a Grand Final berth.

The Tigers did it the hard way, too strong for West Perth in the preliminary final to book a return date and a chance at revenge in the decider.

Matt Templeton’s side had won two of the three matches during the season, heading in to the game on a 12 game winning streak with their only loss to the Tigers in round three.

Overnight and morning rain had made conditions difficult for the Grand Final combatants before the ball had been kicked, puddles forming across the ground and other areas heavy underfoot.

Early goals loomed as crucial to the result, scores at a premium as both teams cracked in despite the conditions.

Sharon Wong was involved in plenty of physical contests early, teenage star Zippy Fish also fighting hard around the stoppages to try and give the Sharks an early advantage.

Claremont had the better of the opening term however, gaining field position and holding strong defensively, not allowing East Fremantle an easy path to goal on a day where ball movement was hampered by soggy conditions.

Bec Anderson stood tall for Claremont, producing two contested marks close to goal for 1.1 in the opening stanza, the Tigers with an eight-point quarter time lead.

East Fremantle seemed to steady in the second term as they finally got the ball inside 50, only to fail to capitalise on the scoreboard, Adele Arnup with the only goal of the term for Claremont.

The Sharks managed behinds to Alicia Blizzard and Ashlee Atkins as well as a rushed behind, an 11-point half time margin a significant challenge for the minor premiers to overcome in the second half.

The East Fremantle defence was holding up superbly under all sorts of pressure, Leanne Gubbins, Maya Louvel-Finn and Natasha Entwistle standing strong as the Tigers looked for an even greater advantage.

The game slowly started to turn in the third term, Claremont losing field position in and among a series of stoppages, Zippy Fish finally able to kick the Sharks first goal of the game courtesy of a crafty soccer goal from left full forward.

Claremont failed to score for the quarter, Wong brilliant inside the contest and Ashlee Atkins and Chloe Reilly also starting to work their way in to the match, setting up a Grandstand finish with just four points in the game with a quarter remaining in the season.

Laura Catherine orchestrated a brilliant clearance to start the final quarter, finding Fish storming through the front of the stoppage who hit a leading Mylee Leitch inside forward 50.

Unfortunately the crafty forward couldn’t quite get the distance with a heavy ball, but the Sharks had some momentum as they hunted the go ahead goal.

Claremont’s backline stood tall and refused to buckle in a battle that was going down to the final minutes, a long kick inside 50 getting behind the defence and allowing Blizzard to gather and snap what looked like the winning goal from right full forward.

With 6 minutes left on the clock East Fremantle looked to push the ball back to their attacking arc, only for Claremont to find a way out and inside 50.

A hurried kick from Bec Anderson landed with Rachel Ortlepp, the Tigers star forward able to get her kick on target inside three minutes from time to return the Tigers to the lead.

East Fremantle made one last attempt to go forward as Fish hauled down a big mark from a Tiani Teakle kick, but Claremont were able to mark the ball through co-captain Adele Arnup as the siren sounded, breaking the hearts of a Sharks outfit that had largely dominated the season.

Claremont had proven to be the better team on the day though, gaining early momentum and able to withstand a gritty Sharks side at the death.

Fish never stopped trying in what is likely to be her final game for East Fremantle, the 18-year-old with 15 disposals, 7 inside 50’s and 8 tackles and a goal to be her side’s best player on her way to an AFL Women’s career next season.

Wong had 14 touches and 11 tackles in a typically tough and unassuming performance from the veteran midfielder, Gubbins superb down back with 14 disposals and numerous intercepts.

Emmelie Fielder and Laura Catherine again dominated the hitout count, sharing 64 between them but perhaps not able to capitalise at ground level, dual Dhara Kerr Medallist Jayme Harken the Lou Knitter Medallist as best afield with 22 disposals for Claremont.

Sharks mentor Templeton was proud of his team, despite the devastation of a second Grand Final defeat in three seasons.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow whenever you lose a Grand Final. I’m still so proud of this playing group,” he said.

“We fought all day to stay in the game after going behind early. The conditions were tough and I couldn’t question the girls endeavour.”

“What fills me with confidence is the fact that our younger players weren’t daunted by the occasion or the scoreboard, and our senior players were outstanding.”

Templeton took a pragmatic approach to such a narrow Grand Final defeat.

“It was our fourth game decided by less than a goal this season, and we had won the previous three. I feel we have handled the big moments well in those results.”

“Unfortunately, this time we ran in to a tough opponent who could handle our pressure and the pressure of the occasion. That’s footy. Congats to the Tigers, we will go again next year.”

While a bittersweet finish to a brilliant season, the Sharks continue to be a dominant force of the WAFL Women’s competition, having only lost eight games in the past three seasons.

The plaudits though go to the Tigers this time, but one thinks this Sharks side will be back for another tilt at premiership glory in 2025.