East Fremantle remain in the hunt for a berth in the second semifinal after belting fifth-placed West Perth by 103 points at East Fremantle Oval today.
Inspired by the presence of West Coast forward Josh Kennedy, who was playing his first competitive game following a long lay-off with an ankle injury, the Sharks kicked eight first-quarter goals to set up the win.
The 23.15 (153) to 7.8 (50) result confirmed East Fremantle’s place in the finals and consigned West Perth to another September in mothballs.
It was a disappointing way for the Falcons to end their season in veteran Anthony Tsalikis’ 150th game.
But for the Sharks it was the perfect response to the previous week’s heartbreaking derby defeat to South Fremantle and a great way to regain momentum with the finals fast approaching.
East Fremantle coach Steve Malaxos highlighted the improvement in the year that has passed since they blew a great chance to play finals football last season.
“Our leadership has improved and I think we’re more cohesive as a team,” Malaxos said.
“That probably comes from the leadership, but I think our AFL players are finding it easier to coordinate playing with us than they did last year.
“We still feel that we can improve and the boys are pretty hungry.
“We’ve had one or two lapses in that area but we’ve lost six games and four of our six losses have been by 10 points or less, so we’ve been pretty consistent.”
Regular defender Luke Weller started at centre half-forward and had an immediate impact for the Sharks, kicking the first two goals of the game within two minutes of the opening bounce.
The first came from a well-executed snap around his body and the second was a booming set shot from 60m after a strong mark.
Sean Henson kicked the Sharks’ third a minute later as they got the jump on a shell-shocked West Perth and the onslaught didn’t stop there.
Kennedy entered the fray and immediately took a strong contested mark but missed his set shot form 40m.
Mark McGough and Jack Perham kept the scoreboard ticking over as the Sharks made full use of the breeze favouring the northern end of the ground.
Milestone man Tsalikis converted a free kick to boot the Falcons’ first at the 14-minute mark but it was mostly one-way traffic before quarter-time.
West Perth captain Jason Salecic tried to inspire his side with a brilliant goal on the run at the start of the second quarter but East Fremantle wrested back momentum to extend their lead to 54 points by the main break.
After a lacklustre third quarter, Malaxos urged his troops to recapture the hunger they had shown early in the game and they responded immediately.
Kennedy, Weller and hard-working midfielder Rory O’Brien kicked the first three goals of the final term to set the tone for the last half-hour of the game.
Kennedy finished with two goals but it was his Eagles teammate Brad Dick (six goals) and Brock O’Brien (four) who were the most dangerous forwards.