Mitch Brown played an unobtrusive but important role for East Fremantle by shutting down former West Coast teammate Ashley Hansen in the preliminary final win over Swan Districts yesterday.
The full-back limited Hansen to a goal and helped marshal the back six in the 27-point win at Steel Blue Oval.
Hansen, who finished second on the goal-kicking list with 63 for the season, had eight possessions, three marks and kicked 1.1.
On a fine day suited to leading full-forwards, it was Brown who emerged the winner in his first match-up against the Eagles (2006) and Swan Districts (2010) premiership spearhead.
"I spent time with Ash at training but he's been in the WAFL for the past two seasons and it was the first time I have played against him in a game," Brown said.
"He's still a good player and it was an excellent challenge."
While Brown missed out on a spot in the West Coast side which lost to Collingwood the previous night, the North Ballarat recruit is happy to be in contention for a spot in next Sunday's grand final against Claremont at Patersons Stadium.
"It would have been good for the boys to get up and have a win last night and be playing next week as well," he said.
"But it's just good to be playing football in September."
Brown, who has battled a string of injuries in recent seasons, said he was always made to feel welcome when he returned to the Sharks.
The 23-year-old has played 38 games for East Fremantle after making his WAFL debut in 2007 and would like nothing better than a win in his 39th.
"East Fremantle means a lot to me. I have been down here for six years on and off now and it's just great to get a reward and play a grand final with them," he said.
"The job's not done yet. It will be a good game next week and hopefully we can come away with a win."
Brown said the Sharks knew Swan Districts would provide a stern challenge in yesterday's cut-throat clash.
"Every time we come out here, it's a tough crowd and they play well so it was a tough time," he said.
Brown had some cheeky words of advice for wayward forward teammates who were responsible for a final scoreline of 13.23 (101) to Swan Districts' 11.8 (74).
"The conditions out there were good for a forward, especially with the wind, if they can read the ball," he said.
"When we get the ball down in our forward line we definitely need to kick those goals, especially against Claremont."
Brown said he would like the chance to play on strong-marking forward Tom Lee or dual Bernie Naylor medallist Chad Jones next Sunday.
Forward Jack Perham (concussion) and midfielder Richard Hadley (lower leg) will be monitored during the week but are expected to be available for the decider.
Hadley, who played in Brisbane's 2003 grand final win against Coll- ingwood, was a useful contributor with 16 possessions, six tackles, three inside 50s and a goal.
The 29-year-old has returned to his best form after missing three weeks with a fractured eye socket received against the Tigers in round 19."Every time we come out here, it's a tough crowd and they play well."" *Mitch Brown *