The South West have held off a spirited challenge from regional rivals Peel on Friday to claim a 20-point Landmark Division One triumph at East Fremantle Oval.
The 13.12 (90) to 10.10 (70) victory means South West, the defending champions, will play in Sunday’s grand final at Medibank Stadium.
With scores level 58-all at three-quarter time both sides were inseparable early in the last trading goals in an end-to-end contest.
South West midfielder Josh Krispyn left the field with a shoulder injury, but returned minutes later to lead his side to victory in a best-on-ground performance.
As players threw themselves into the exchanges Teke Vernon edged the South West ahead after goaling from a relayed free kick.
The reigning champions began to wrest the ascendency as the quarter went on, and when Blair Malatesta popped a handball over to Alex James who was alone in the goal-square with four minutes to play, the South West had the break they needed.
After a quiet afternoon, Malatesta slotted a goal on the full time siren to ice the win, which came at a cost for the South West, who had to cover injuries to big forward Jordan Adamson-Holmes and utility Craig Taylor over the course of the afternoon.
Adamson Holmes had been the only change in South West’s side on Friday – the Bunbury key-forward named to play his first game since going down in round nine of the SWFL with a hamstring injury. He replaced Busselton’s Daniel McGinlay (hamstring) in the line-up but lasted only minutes into the first term before coming from the ground.
Despite the near-perfect conditions, both sides were locked in a tight first quarter contest and the game was 13 minutes old when Vernon, the South West’s vice captain, booted the opening goal.
But if the first quarter was an arm-wrestle, the second could not have been more different as the South West broke the game open with four quick goals, the pick of them an angled running effort from Harvey Bulls mid-fielder Alex James.
For the South West, Krispyn was winning plenty of the ball through the midfield while in a successful move forward David Newman booted two goals.
Peel’s Phil Wakenshaw was working hard around half-forward for his side who stayed in the contest after majors to Dominic Hardey and Gavin Butler.
Despite Collie Eagles’ star Taylor hobbling from the field with an ankle injury in the shadows of half-time, South West were still in control at the long break and led by 25 points.
Dylan Bairstow was shown a yellow card early in the third term as Peel capitalised on a dominant period.
When Mandurah Mustangs’ Mitchell White bobbed up and booted his second major for the quarter, Shane Creevey ran into an open goal and Ryan McKinlay kicked truly from a free kick scores were level at 51-all and it was game on.
South West captain Will Oelsnik was instrumental across the half-back line while Harvey-Brunswick-Leschenault big-man Scott Delmenico was moved into the defensive 50 as a loose man.
But it was not enough to stop the rot and Peel hit the front for the first time through McKinlay, who was causing all sorts of problems for the South West with three third-quarter majors after coming on at half-time.
Peel made a bright start to the final term as White and Hardey kicked goals but it was not enough to overcome the South West, who got back on top and improved as the quarter went on.
It was the South West’s second victory of the tournament, after they defeated Ongerup by 60 points on Thursday. Sunday’s grand final will bounce-down at 2.45pm.