Thursday, April 18, 2013

East Fremantle Sharks 15.18 (108) at Perth Demons 16.10 (106) (Western Australian Football League) - April 14, 2013

When I planned this short trip to Perth, it was to see the AFL and Super Rugby matches. Sunday afternoon was empty, which just wouldn't do. With my return flight not until midnight, I had to find something to watch. After much searching online, I discovered the wonderfully named WAFL, which stands for the West Australian Football League. This is a semi-pro league with 9 teams based in and around Perth. It might be considered the equivalent of Independent League baseball, with some players moving on to the AFL and others coming back at the tail end of their careers, but with no direct affiliation to the larger league.

The WAFL plays four games every weekend and thankfully there was a game on Sunday afternoon at Brownes Stadium, home of the Perth Demons. Located just a few minutes from the Victoria Park rail station, it was convenient to where I was staying and therefore a no-brainer to pay a visit and add the 101st league to my list (more on that in a future post).

The stadium was originally known as Laithlan Oval, named for the suburb in which it is located. In 2009, local dairy concern Brownes has owned the sponsorship rights, hence the new name.

All WAFL games are $15 for adults with unreserved seating. Ovals are quite large, so choosing a good seat is important. Most fans choose to sit in the upper rows of the covered section near midfield (visible beyond the posts above) but there are also benches right at field level that provide a unique view (below).

The canteen here was great, with $4 toasties my choice (a toastie is just a sandwich grilled in a press). Beer was only $6/can although you had to remain within the licensed part near the bar.

There isn’t much else to talk about here. These places can hold up to 20,000 but there were perhaps 2,500 at the game I attended, so it was easy to move around and take pictures from different spots. The weather was perfect, not too hot, a nice breeze, perfect for fall football. If you are in Perth between April and July, check out the WAFL schedule and see a game if you can; much like minor league baseball it will give you a sense of the community and be pretty entertaining as well.

The Game

If you missed my recap of the AFL game I saw at the Subiaco Oval, read that for a brief explanation of the rules of the game.

The East Fremantle Sharks were visiting, and with both teams coming in at 2-0, I had hopes for a good game and was not disappointed. Both squads were able to move the ball fairly easily and there was a lot of scoring, but neither club could build a big lead.

The scoreboard after each quarter was as follows:

East Fremantle 4.3 (27) 8.9 (57) 9.15 (67) 
Perth          5.4 (34) 8.4 (52) 11.8 (74)

Note all those behinds that East Fremantle scored in the second and third quarters, indicating that they were getting possession but their kicking was a bit inaccurate.

In the final frame, the teams battled for the lead, but it looked like Perth (in black, kicking above) had taken it with two goals as the clock neared 30 minutes (remember that quarters are just 20 minutes long but there are no clock stoppages for the fans, so the actual end of the game is a mystery).

Down by 4 points, the Sharks managed to block a Perth kick, take possession, and move the ball down the field with a couple of excellent kicks. The final kick was received in the center of the 50-meter area by Sean Henson who was paid the mark despite the Perth player also seeming to gain possession. The mark forced the defenders off Henson, who calmly slotted home to give East Fremantle a thrilling 15.18 (108) to 16.10 (106) victory. Those behinds in the middle two stanzas ended up being the difference. It is not common for a team to win scoring less goals, but that is what happened here.

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the game was the hand-operated scoreboard. With 59 scores in the 80 minutes of action, the operators were certainly busy.



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