It was a case of too little, too late for reigning premiers West Perth today in a three-point defeat to East Fremantle at East Fremantle Oval.
The Falcons kicked six of the last seven goals but couldn’t get their noses in front after trailing by 33 points midway through the final term.
The Sharks held on to win 11.7 (73) to the Falcons 10.10 (70).
Led by Sandover medallist Rory O’Brien and a band of recruits, East Fremantle gradually kicked their way clear after half-time following a dour first half.
The Sharks looked home when Ryan Lester-Smith ran into an open goal at the 10-minute mark of the final quarter to put the margin beyond five goals.
But West Perth came roaring back, kicking five consecutive majors to close to within three points.
Brett Peake pounced on a loose ball at the back of a pack to give East Fremantle breathing space late in time-on, but Jordan Jones replied to ensure fans had their hearts in mouths over the final few minutes.
The Falcons could have snatched the lead if not for Sharks defender Matthew Jupp’s brilliant saving mark deep in defence.
Running back with the flight of the ball, Jupp took a spectacular high grab in front of Jones.
West Perth’s day was further soured by a shoulder injury for Andrew Strijk and the report of Marc Crisp, who was booked for rough conduct in an incident that left teammate Matthew Johnson and opponent Sam Read both with head wounds.
East Fremantle midfielder O’Brien had 36 disposals as his side’s leading ball-winner, with former West Coast midfielders Bradd Dalziell (33) and Jamie McNamara (27) also influential.
Peake kicked three and Lester-Smith two goals, while Brock O’Brien was influential across half-back in his return to the Sharks.
Shane Nelson (37 touches) and Aaron Black (28) were West Perth’s most prolific players, while Van Berlo kicked two goals to go with his 27 possessions.
Earlier in the day, East Fremantle won the reserves by 10 points and the colts by 21 points.