WAFL Grand Final 2023 Report

Wednesday, September 27, 2023 - 10:12 AM by Frederick Knickel and Lachlan Byrne

East Fremantle came out of the blocks early with an impressive opening five minutes to give them a three-goal lead, while consistent forward 50 entries from the Sharks had the Peel defence scrambling to steady the ship.

The experienced heads of Joel Hamling and Brodie began to stand up for the Thunder midway through the term with Wagner also trying to inject some run off the half backline.

Back-to-back efforts from Ben Middleton saw him slot the Thunder’s first at the 20-minute mark of the term to give Peel a much-needed spark.

After controlling the ball for virtually the entire quarter, East Fremantle struggled to really capitalise on their dominance, keeping Peel within 11 points at quarter time.

The second term started in similar fashion to the first with East Fremantle slotting the opener.

Colyer kicked Peel back to within 10-points with a crumbing front and centre snap igniting a fire in the Thunder forward line.

As East Fremantle walked the ball out of their defensive 50 Tom Emmett had other ideas, as a spectacular run and chase tackle sent Peel forward again.

Despite the surge in pressure from Peel, numerous broken tackles in defensive 50 allowed the Sharks to extend the margin back to 20 points.

Colyer found himself as the last link in an impressive chain of handballs, as he turned on the jets to kick his second of the quarter.

A far more competitive second term from the Thunder saw numerous players have their impact felt in the contest.

The Sharks made it three from three as they kicked the first of the second half pushing the margin back out to 20-points.

Wilson continued to provide plenty of run in the back half with his booming right foot consistently clearing the danger zone for Peel.

Jack Sears started to become a real attacking threat for the Thunder midway through the term, nailing a set shot from outside 50 to cut the deficit to two goals.

Cracks began to emerge late in the term for Peel as consistent pressure and frequent forays forward, saw East Fremantle extend their lead to a game-high 28 points.

Peel went into the last quarter with their backs against the wall, with five goals needed to chase down East Fremantle, who had the finish line in sight.

East struck first blood of the last quarter placing one hand firmly on the trophy.

Peel utilised multiple key position changes to create a much-needed spark.

Riley Smith gave a final glimpse of hope to the Thunder kicking his first of the afternoon before the Sharks quickly struck back.

The East Fremantle chant began to ring around Optus Stadium with 10 minutes to play with the Sharks holding a comfortable 40-point lead.

Senior Coach Geoff Valentine reflected on Peel's disappointing finish to the season.

“It's been a good year but it was disappointing today to underperform," Valentine said.

“I thought we trained really well during the week, but the scoreboard pressure got to us.

“It was a disappointing day with our fundamentals.

“Our ground balls, missed tackles, our defensive 50 work just wasn’t at the required standard."

Valentine applauded the role of senior players in helping develop the younger members of the team.

“It’s been a highlight to coach those fellas, they’ve given everything they possibly could," Valentine said.

“You can’t question their energy.

“It is really hard to get to grand finals, so when you don’t get to make the most of your opportunities it is really disappointing."

Valentine said he had high hopes for the youth the Club has to offer.