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Eastland Heroics Not Enough for Tigers

Tuesday, April 2, 2024 - 5:18 PM

Eastland heroics not enough for Tigers

By John Townsend


Ollie Eastland has started the new season like he ended the last.

Claremont’s reigning EB Cook medallist and the most influential ruckman in WAFL ranks, Eastland dominated West Perth in the absorbing WAFL season-opener on Easter Thursday night.

Eastland produced 45 hit-outs, gathered 23 possessions and kicked a crucial goal to almost single-handedly defeat the Falcons in a nail-biting contest under the new $2million lights at Pentanet Stadium.

And only three team-mates laid more than his four tackles, giving him a remarkable 72 individual involvements in the match.

Unfortunately for Eastland and his team-mates, Claremont were unable to defend their hard-won lead in the dying minutes and succumbed by two points, 11.9 (75) to 11.7 (73), in a match that had parallels to the meeting of the two teams in the 2022 grand final.

Claremont had not lost an opening round match since 2018 with the last three contests being low-scoring thrillers against West Perth in Joondalup.

Former Claremont forward Keegan Knott proved the nemesis for the Tigers with a typical opportunist goal snapped from loose play to give the Falcons the lead late in the last quarter.

Returning spearhead Alec Waterman had the chance to break thousands of West Perth hearts with a long set shot in the desperate final stanza but was only able to register a behind as his kick faded left.

It was the final score of a match played at such intensity that both teams would be confident of having an impact in the finals.

Four Tigers made their league debuts, including the memorably-named West Love, SANFL dasher Manguru (Marty) Frederick, former Docker Eric Benning and Swanbourne junior Josh Howard, but it was the old guard that were the most prominent contributors to the cause.

Jye Bolton played as a sweeper across half-back for much of the first half when Claremont were under siege.

The highly-decorated Bolton (32 disposals including 23 kicks) used his experience and poise to stymie a series of West Perth attacks, and set up his own, but it was notable that Claremont played their best football when he went into the midfield in the second half.

Eastland and Bolton were the two most effective players in the match but it was evident the Tigers did not have a game-breaker like West Perth’s versatile Noah Pegoraro whose late shift into the ruck provided the spark for his team to charge home.

Bailey Rogers was mostly stationed in attack, kicking three goals to complement the identical return from Alex Manuel, where his aerial prowess made him the major target.

Senior midfielders Declan Mountford and Callan England took advantage of Eastland’s dominance to become the main conduits into attack.

England had a game-high seven inside 50s from his 27 disposals, many of them involving high-speed dashes along the wings, while Mountford was a whole-hearted example to his colleagues.

Perhaps inspired by the buzzing 4318-strong home crowd on a superb evening for football, West Perth made a bright start and ran the lead up to 26 points before Manuel’s two strikes gave Claremont some control at half-time.

The Tigers then played vibrant football in the third term to kick eight unanswered goals.

Manuel added his third, Love snapped a maiden goal to give his team the lead and the ball was retained in Claremont’s half.

Joel Western was dynamic as a fleet-footed playmaker, Sam Alvarez displayed a cool head and excellent kicking on both feet, and Frederick eased into the game as he acclimatised to the pace.

Claremont were not able to get full scoreboard value for their ground control but they extended the lead to a handy 22 points in the last term before the Pegoraro shift changed the complexion of the match.

Roared on by Joondalup’s biggest opening round crowd in the ground’s 30-year history, the Falcons kicked five of the last six goals to turn the tables on the visitors.

The game was still alive when Knott’s trademark snap gave West Perth the lead for the first time in 45 minutes but Claremont could not get the ball into their scoring zone until Waterman was able to mark on the 50m line with two minutes to go.

It was Waterman’s first kick at goal for Claremont since the 2020 grand final, with stints at Essendon and West Coast taking him to Melbourne and back, but failed to produce a fairytale return to the Tigers.


CLAREMONT 2.2 4.2 7.4 11.7 73

WEST PERTH 3.2 6.4 6.6 11.9 75

GOALS - CLAREMONT: Manuel, Rogers 3; Mainwaring 2; Eastland, Elliott, Love.

WEST PERTH: Keitel 3; DeMarte, Knott 2; Scaife, Rundle, Hobley, West.

BEST - CLAREMONT: Eastland, Bolton, England, Rogers, Manuel, Alvarez.

WEST PERTH: Meadows, Pegoraro, Keitel, West, Sh. Nelson, DeMarte.