Rival coaches Steve Malaxos and Marc Webb have identified the battle of the midfields as a key in Sunday’s WAFL grand final between Claremont and East Fremantle at Patersons Stadium.
Rookie senior coach Marc Webb said Claremont had a healthy respect for an East Fremantle midfield unit likely to feature ex-AFL players Mark McGough (Collingwood/St Kilda) and Richard Hadley (Brisbane/Carlton) alongside West Coast squad members Koby Stevens and Bradd Dalziell, Fremantle rookie list member Sam Menegola, and prolific ball winner Rory O’Brien.
“There’s no doubt they are a very good midfield unit,” Webb said.
“They use the ball well and there is going to be some tight tussles.
“You probably saw their ability on the weekend to shut down (the delivery to) Swans forwards so that’s an area they will no doubt be trying to do the same to us as well.”
Steve Malaxos, in his second year as Sharks league coach, said the Tigers had some quality players running through the middle of the ground including Sandover Medallists Luke Blackwell and Kane Mitchell.
“They have got a couple of Sandover Medallists there and some other really fine players,” Malaxos said.
“(Andrew) Foster, (Tom) Swift and (Jake) Murphy are all good players and I guess you don’t get to a grand final if you haven’t got a good midfield.
“Every midfield is a little bit different but overall they have got a very good midfield.”
Malaxos and Webb said they would make a final decision on their teams for the season decider tomorrow.
The Tigers will make at least one change, with Dockers utility player Nic Suban coming in for injured captain Andrew Browne.
Browne failed in a last-ditch attempt to prove his fitness at training on Wednesday night.
Blackwell or Mitchell, who each took the skipper’s role when Browne missed matches during the season, are expected to fill the senior leadership role.
There was similar heartache for Sharks forward Jack Perham who will miss the grand final after being knocked out in a sickening mid-air collision with Swans full back Tallan Ames during last Sunday’s 27-point preliminary final win against Swan Districts at Steel Blue Oval.
Fremantle ruckman Jonathon Griffin is set to rushed into the East Fremantle side along with West Coast defender Jacob Brennan.
Claremont are aiming for consecutive grand final wins for the first time since a hat-trick of WAFL premierships starting in 1938 while the Sharks are chasing their first league flag since 1998.
East Fremantle will contest all three grades on Sunday, set to do battle with Claremont in the reserves (11.15am) and rival port club South Fremantle in the colts (8.30am).