EAST FREMANTLE has stormed through to the Foxtel Cup Grand Final, slogging out an emphatic 24-point victory over Werribee in torrential rain on Tuesday night at Patersons Stadium.
The Sharks will play off for a grand prize of $100,000, awarded to the winner of the knockout competition that hosts the best state-league teams across the country.
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On paper, the Sharks were the underdogs, playing in unfamiliar conditions against a Werribee side made up of nine North Melbourne players.
But a ‘team first’ ethic, combined with extreme determination, effort and discipline proved too much for a Tigers outfit that lacked structure.
With rain bucketing down, the Sharks were like fish in water. They tackled ferociously, were direct and opportunistic when attacking and were hungry at the stoppages. Their opponent appeared shell-shocked.
Workhorse Rory O’Brien revelled in the wet, setting the tone early with 14 possessions (eight contested), four clearances and a classy goal from 40 metres out on the boundary - all in the opening half.
Injury-plagued West Coast forward Brad Dick was dangerous in his return from a hamstring injury, slotting a trademark snap goal in the first quarter and kicking truly from a set shot in the second.
Aidan Tropiano kicked an impressive goal off two steps from outside-50 before half time to give the Sharks a 6.2 (38) to 1.3 (9) lead at the main break.
An extraordinary downpour followed, and Werribee would kick the only goal of the second half as the Sharks held on to knock off last year’s Foxtel Cup runner-up.
Brisbane Lions 2003 premiership player Richard Hadley showed no signs of the injuries that crippled his AFL career, working relentlessly for the Sharks throughout the entirety of the contest and recording game-highs in possessions (20), contested possessions (14), tackles (7), clearances (6) and inside-50s (7).
Tom Howlett took a game-high seven marks and was superb as the general in defence, reading the play brilliantly.
For Werribee, Ayden Kennedy was prominent at half-back while Ben Brown continued to stake his claim as one of the Victorian Football League’s most promising forwards.
Majak Daw returned to the field after receiving a bump that left him groggy in the early stages of the match, though he was benched for the majority of the game due to the wet conditions.
East Fremantle will meet the winner of semi-finalists Claremont and West Adelaide in the Foxtel Cup Grand Final on Tuesday, August 6.
East Fremantle 3.0 6.2 6.3 6.4 (40)
Werribee 0.3 1.3 1.3 2.4 (16)
East Fremantle: Dick 2, O’Brien, Tropiano, Boyle, Lester-Smith
Werribee: Tudor, McKinley
East Fremantle: O’Brien, Hadley, Howlett, McGough, Tropiano
Werribee: Brown, Kennedy, Sierakowski, Purton-Smith