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Bulldogs return to ominous form to book preliminary final berth

Monday, September 11, 2017 - 4:25 PM by Chris Pike
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SOUTH Fremantle bounced back emphatically beating Swan Districts by 80 points at Fremantle Community Bank Oval in the first semi-final on Sunday kicking 17 of the last 20 goals to advance to the preliminary final against Subiaco.
 
After having such an impressive home and away season ending with a nine-game winning streak for a 16-4 record and to be in second position, the pressure was back on South Fremantle to beat Swan Districts on Sunday in the first semi-final on home turf.
 
The Bulldogs had lost by 18 points in the qualifying final last Saturday while Swans were coming in off the high of a strong performance to beat West Perth in the elimination final at Steel Blue Oval last Sunday setting up an intriguing cut-throat contest.
 
Swans came out and threw everything at the Bulldogs early as well and with Ryan Crowley and David Ellard particularly prominent through the middle, they were able to hold a nine-point advantage early in the second quarter.
 
But from there South Fremantle regained some of its most impressive form kicking 17 of the game's last 20 goals to end up winning 20.16 (136) to 8.8 (56).
 
That means the Bulldogs advance to the preliminary final on Sunday against Subiaco at Leederville Oval with the winner to move into the Grand Final for 2017 against Peel Thunder.
 
The season is over for Swan Districts as are the careers of Tallan Ames, Ryan Crowley and Jamie Bennell along with the coaching tenure of Greg Harding who has been at the helm since 2011.
 
South Fremantle had a host of players who needed to stand up following the qualifying final loss to Peel, but one of those wasn’t ruckman Brock Higgins and the big man delivered another standout performance up against Corey Gault from Swan Districts.
 
Higgins finished with 15 possessions and 45 hit outs.
 
Shane Hockey stood up to deliver a standout performance in the midfield too with 34 disposals, seven inside 50s and five tackles while getting outstanding support from a host of others.
 
Haiden Schloithe ended up with 32 possessions and two goals, Ashton Hams 26 disposals, Ryan Cook 26 touches and nine marks, Tim Kelly 23 possessions and three goals, and Dylan Main 21 disposals and two goals. Jarrod Garlett also had his good moments with 19 possessions.
 
South Fremantle's forward-line struggled against Peel but was outstanding against Swan Districts starting with the pressure coming from those forwards. Blaine Johnson also kicked four goals and Ben Saunders three.
 
Tom Vandeleur played a defensive forward role on Swan Districts big man Tony Notte and did well limiting the 201-game player to 12 touches and four marks while having 11 disposals, five marks and a goal himself.
 
The Bulldogs' back-line stood tall also with Zac Strom who was outstanding against Swans full-forward Ricky Cary holding him to four kicks and one goal. Blayne Wilson also had 14 disposals and eight marks down back while Jason Maskos held Bennell to one goal and six kicks.
 
The only downside was a groin injury for South Fremantle to Steve Verrier but he remains hopeful of playing in Sunday's preliminary final.
 
It took just two minutes for the Bulldogs to start brightly with an early goal to Ben Saunders after he was part of the quiet forward-line a week ago. But Swans had again come out a determined outfit and kicked the next two goals from Brayden Noble and Ryan Crowley.
 
South Fremantle regained the lead through Cory Dell'Olio before Todd Banfield put Swans back in front after two 50m penalties. 
 
The lead changes continued with a Bulldogs goal to Dylan Main but the black-and-whites went into quarter-time three points up thanks to a late opportunist snap from Jamie Bennell that cleared Shaun Bewick who slipped in the goal square.
 
Swans threatened to really build some momentum with the opening goal of the second term to Crowley to put the pressure right back on the highly-favoured South Fremantle.
 
But the Bulldogs responded impressively kicking the next five goals in the space of 13 minutes as their pressure in the forward half went up a cog to create a host of chances.
 
Crowley's third steadied things briefly for the black-and-whites before South Fremantle again kicked three more before half-time to Blaine Johnson, Schloithe and Main to be 35 points up at the long break.
 
Swans did keep somewhat in touch to start the second half with the opening goal courtesy of Banfield. It took South Fremantle until the 17-minute to get a goal but they had been missing a host of chances before Saunders kicked truly with his third major.
 
Bewick then marked his return with a terrific goal from 50 and when Johnson added a second just before three quarter-time, the Bulldogs were on the way to the preliminary final with 49 points.
 
South Fremantle's lead grew to 56 points to start the last term with a goal to Ryan Cook before Swans responded through Ricky Cary who had just four kicks for the day.
 
But it was all South Fremantle from there as the Bulldogs enjoyed themselves and built up the confidence ahead of the preliminary final with Subiaco. South Fremantle finished the game with goals to Kelly, Johnson, Tom Vandeleur, Kelly again and Johnson again to end up winning by 80 points.
 
There was a nice moment late when Swan Districts orchestrated for Tallan Ames to try and finish his career with his 54th goal but unfortunately his left boot wasn’t quite on target.
 
SOUTH FREMANTLE 3.4 11.7 14.13 20.16 (136)
SWAN DISTRICTS 4.1 6.2 7.5 8.8 (56)
 
SOUTH FREMANTLE – Goals: Johnson 4; Saunders, Kelly 3; Schloithe, Main 2; Dell'Olio, Bewick, Vandeleur, Parker, Hams, Cook.
Best: Higgins, Hockey, Schloithe, Kelly, Strom, Vandeleur, Cook, Kelly.
SWAN DISTRICS – Goals: Crowley 3; Banfield 2; Bennell, Cary, Noble.
Best: Crowley, Ellard, Taylor, Ugle, Riggio, Banfield.