Claremont’s disquieting mid-season slump continued at Claremont Oval on Saturday when the side succumbed to the intense pressure applied by Swan Districts and slumped to a 39-point defeat.
The loss should act as a wake-up call as the finals draw closer. It came after less-than-convincing efforts against East Fremantle and South Fremantle on the two previous Saturdays when Claremont scraped home by four points and three points.
It was Claremont’s second defeat in 15 matches this season and the side has a clear lead on the premiership table. However, it left the Tigers in some danger of losing top spot to West Perth and the right to play the second semi-final at home.
Claremont’s final five qualifying-round matches are against Subiaco (away), East Perth (home), Swan Districts (home), Perth (away) and East Fremantle (away).
The Tigers were never really fully switched on against the Swans, who arrived at Claremont Oval full of confidence and with great self-belief. The Swans were on a mission and they were like a well-oiled machine which rarely missed a beat. At no stage did the Swans ease their endeavour, and Claremont simply wilted under the relentless and ruthless pressure.
It was a reminder to other premiership aspirants that Claremont certainly are not invincible and that the race for the flag is far from a forgone conclusion. Much hard work and dedication lies ahead for the Tigers.
Claremont certainly have been hit extremely hard this year by injury, with several top-line players being sidelined for lengthy periods with serious injuries. The good news on Saturday was that star midfielders Luke Blackwell and Andrew Foster were able to resume. But the bad news is that the side’s wonderful captain Andrew Browne sustained a quadriceps strain and will be on the sidelines for a few weeks.
A disappointing aspect of Claremont’s performance against Swans included the inability of the side to score a goal in the final quarter after managing only one goal (which came from some undisciplined play by Swans) in the second quarter.
The Tigers trailed by 32 points at half-time before giving their supporters considerable cause for optimism by slamming home six goals to two in the third term to trail by only eight points at three-quarter time. But it was a false dawn, a mirage as Swans stormed home and held the home side goalless in the final 31 minutes of the contest.
Heartening news for Claremont was that Blackwell and Foster pulled up in good shape and are sure to show great benefit from the outing. Blackwell had 13 kicks, made 16 effective handpasses and gained ten clearances from stoppages. Foster had 12 kicks and made 11 effective handpasses. He gained seven clearances.
The indefatigable Jake Murphy was again a bundle of energy who showed the way with 25 kicks, eight effective handpasses, ten clearances and six inside 50s. Mark Seaby was the dominant ruckman in the match and he finished with 12 clearances.
The Tigers had the first use of the wind, but Swans had two goals on the board in the opening four minutes after Charlie Cameron brought up full points with the contest only 80 seconds old and Tony Notte getting the first of his five goals after receiving a free-kick.
Foster showed up early with two great tackles and it took the Tigers just over seven minutes to open their account. A great spoil by James Thomson on Notte enabled David Crawford to boot the ball forward where Ben Daniher leapt and tapped the ball superbly to Paul Medhurst, whose long shot went through for a goal.
Crawford again got the Tigers out of defence and an excellent long kick by Medhurst found Nick Winmar at left half-forward. Winmar’s short pass was marked by Liam Smith for the side’s second goal. Then Blackwell, Jack Bradshaw and Murphy combined to get the ball to Medhurst, whose point levelled the scores.
Claremont hit the front after Blackwell handpassed to Matt Davies, who used his non-preferred right boot to send the ball forward where Chad Jones took a strong contested mark against Tallan Ames before going back slam home the first of his four goals.
A supercharged start to the second term had the Tigers reeling. Half-forward flanker Ryan Davis had a goal on the board after 34 seconds and the visitors scored another three goals in the next eight minutes before Claremont replied with a goal at the 11-minute mark after Murphy had received a free-kick and a 50m penalty.
But Swans regained control and booted the next two goals to go into the half-time break with a handy 32-point margin.
Again it took only exactly 34 seconds for the first goal of the third term --- and this time it was the Tigers who were first out of the blocks. Seaby thumped the ball forward at the opening bounce and Browne’s soccered kick was marked by Jones for his second major.
Swans hit back with a poster and a goal before Blackwell passed to Richardson, whose kick was marked in the left pocket by Jones. A behind was the result. Then Jones took two more marks for two goals, the first coming after Daniher had cleared from half-back and Murphy’s right-foot torpedo was marked by Mitch Andrews. Andrews handballed to Bradshaw, whose kick found Jones.
Two minutes later a Swans clearing kick sailed out of bounds on the full and Tom Taylor’s free-kick went to Jones for another goal. But Browne, who had been a driving force, was forced to leave the field after 15 minutes with a sore quadriceps.
Another two minutes later Andrews won the tap at a boundary throw-in in the left pocket and Foster was retarded illegally to earn a free-kick which he converted into Claremont’s eighth goal. Davis replied with an accurate snap and then Ian Richardson scored a goal from a free-kick after a forward move involving Foster, Seaby and Murphy.
This was followed by a marvellous individual effort from Liam Smith, who gained possession at half-back, dashed forward and took a couple of bounces before handballing to Daniher. Smith kept running and accepted the handpass from Daniher before surging forward and booting the ball to the top of the goalsquare where Anton Hamp received interference in the marking duel. Hamp’s goal was followed by a snapped point from Murphy and a long shot from Keifer Yu being touched through for another point.
A six goal to two third quarter should have invigorated the Claremont men. But Swans reasserted their authority and outscored the Tigers five goals to nil in the final term. A highlight early in the quarter was when Crawford applied tremendous pressure on Swans ruckman Rory Lobb as he was about to take a shot at goal from point blank range. Crawford lunged desperately to tackle Lobb and this forced his kick to slew off the boot and trickle out of bounds in the right pocket.
Swans then raced away with the contest and the convincing victory will give them great confidence when they travel to Claremont Oval again for the round 22 match against the Tigers.
Swan Districts 16.14 (110) beat Claremont 10.11 (71).
Scorers---SWAN DISTRICTS: T. Notte 5.2; T. Geappen 3.2; R. Davis 2.2; C. Cameron 2.1; D. Garlett 1.3; A. Elari, T. Roach, B. Robinson 1.0; A. Faulkner, M. Rogers 0.12; 2pts forced. CLAREMONT: C. Jones 4.1; P. Medhurst 1.3; J. Murphy, I. Richardson 1.1; A. Foster, A. Hamp, L. Smith 1.0; L. Blackwell, N. Winmar, K. Yu 0.1; 2pts forced.
Best---SWAN DISTRICTS: R. Davis, T. Notte, A. Elari, B. Robinson, J. Bennell, W. Twomey, M. Rogers. CLAREMONT: J. Murphy, L. Blackwell, M. Seaby, A. Browne, A. Foster, I. Richardson.
By Ken Casellas