Titans to clash in thriller
Titans to clash in thriller

Leading goal kicker Josh Smith versus 11-goal spearhead Ashley Hansen.

Sandover Medal favourite Paul Johnson against hit-out leader Wes Lammie.

Tough nut Craig Wulff on the reborn Matt Riggio, or the dashing Garry Moss opposed to the silky Marlon Motlop.

A series of outstanding individual battles are just part of the enthralling contest that will see top team Swan Districts take on second-placed East Perth at Steel Blue Oval today.

Top-two clashes have been rare in recent seasons.

West Perth upset eventual premiers Claremont in tight tussles twice last year, while the Tigers had a draw and a big win over Swans during their two ladder-leading encounters in 2010.

The evidence of the past two seasons is that today's loser may go on to win the flag, though that is unlikely to be of any solace to the vanquished team tonight.

While the rival coaches differed on the importance of the contest, Greg Harding was eager for Swans to use the game to erase memories of their poor effort against East Perth in Manjimup in round eight.

"This is the most testing game of our season to date," Harding said.

"We were uncompetitive for most of the game in Manjimup and we are looking forward to this week."

Swans have won all five matches since then, but East Perth have an even better record with a nine-match unbeaten streak, including a draw with West Perth on WA Day.

Tony Micale, the most experienced coach in the WAFL with four flags and 244 matches, knows what it takes to win critical matches.

But he would not be tempted to give the match greater importance than any other fixture.

"It is no bigger than any game we've had this year," Micale said.

"Every game has been tough and every game has a super amount of importance."

The teams are evenly matched in system and manpower with both teams using their array of contested-ball winners to supply two tall targets.

Hansen and rangy Tim Geappen have proved slightly more prolific with 64 goals between them compared to Smith and his foil, Adam Prior, who have 55.

Hansen's 11 goals against Peel last Saturday, the biggest WAFL haul since Brad Smith's 11 for Subiaco against South Fremantle five years ago, took his tally to 33 this season. Geappen has 31.

Smith is leading the competition's goal kicking with 34, while Prior has 21.

Full-back Kyle Anderson's likely return from a hamstring strain and the WAFL match review panel's decision to throw out a rough conduct report against Luke Sampey will boost the Royals as they attempt to combat Swans' attacking pillars.

Lammie has been one of Swans' most improved players this season and leads the ruck tally with 319 hit-outs.

But he will face his sternest test today against Johnson, who not only gets first hands on the ball nearly 30 times a game but is mobile enough to win 19 possessions a match.

The West Australian

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