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Heart-break as Eastland Marks Milestone

Monday, April 15, 2024 - 10:20 AM

John Townsend


Ollie Eastland can see positive signs in Claremont’s improved effort against South Fremantle even though the heart-breaking one-point loss took the gloss off his own personal milestone.

Eastland, in the form of his life as the WAFL’s most dominant ruckman, on Saturday became the 126th Claremont player to reach 100 games.

He was in the middle of the action for much of the frenetic last quarter at Fremantle Community Bank Oval as the Tigers locked the ball deep in their forward line.

But Claremont could only manage 1.8 for the term – and just one behind in the final 10 minutes – to extend their sequence of nail-biting losses at the ground.

It also meant Claremont finished a round on the bottom of the ladder for the first time in six years and marked the first time they had ever been 10th.

The 10.10 (70) to 9.15 (69) result was the third one-point loss to the Bulldogs in the past four seasons to go with the three-point loss to the same team in the 2020 grand final and other galling recent defeats of seven, eight and 11 points.

Eastland was a member of each of those losing teams and could see another defeat looming when South kicked six unanswered goals to start the match.

“We did everything we could in that last quarter but out first quarter ruined it,” he said.

“It is hard to come back from that.”

He was pleased that the team showed greater resolve than in their insipid display against East Fremantle last week ago, but was frustrated at the lack of success to start the season.

“We just want to get a win,” he said. “We are 0 and 3.”

“It is a tough comp. If you are not on for four quarters you get punished as we found in that first quarter.”

There was little more the centurion could have done to help his team’s cause with 15 of his 45 hit-outs going directly to his team’s advantage while he regularly followed up his own tap work to win many of his 21 possessions.

South had their first goal in the opening minute but the main damage was done by veteran Zac Strom who managed to slam on three goals in the first term by reading the flight of the ball better in the strong breeze.

Strom stationed himself at the back of the pack and was able to run into an open goal when the ball carried the marking contest.

South stretched their lead to an imposing 37 points and it appeared a second consecutive thrashing was about to happen there by the time busy Zac Mainwaring opened Claremont’s scoring during time-on in the first quarter.

But Alec Waterman and Alex Manuel struck just before the break to slice the deficit to 25 and signal that Claremont would not be overwhelmed by the task.

Claremont’s resurgence was driven by the use of the team’s most senior midfielders on the ball where Jye Bolton, Bailey Rogers and Callan England started to impose themselves.

Captain Declan Mountford was lost to a hamstring strain but Bolton (29 possessions), England (29) and Rogers (28 including 17 in contests) had a substantial influence as Claremont outscored their opponents to reward the ball-winning efforts up the ground.

The margin was back to 14 points at the last break and Claremont had all the momentum when debutant Jack Musika landed the only goal of the final term shortly after the restart.

But luck eluded the Tigers for the remaining 20 minutes while South Fremantle increased their defensive intensity as their lead was threatened.

Rogers marked strongly in the forward 50 but his three shots were all astray, Mainwaring missed twice and the ball was slammed into the behind post with seconds left when a score would have tied the match.


CLAREMONT 3.1 6.5 8.7 9.15 69

SOUTH FREMANTLE 7.2 9.4 10.9 10.10 70

GOALS - CLAREMONT: Manuel, Waterman 2; Mainwaring, Alvarez, Bolton, Gowdie, Musika.

SOUTH FREMANTLE: Z Strom 5; Polson 2; Main, Parker, Russell.

BEST - CLAREMONT: Eastland, England, Bolton, Rogers, Mainwaring, Martinis.

SOUTH FREMANTLE: Z Strom, Parker, Winder, Pearson, Schloithe, Boullineau.