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Tuesday, April 26, 2022 - 1:30 PM

By Ken Casellas

Few things in life and in sport are impossible. Miracles occasionally occur. But the makeshift Claremont league side faced a task of seemingly insurmountable proportions when they went into battle against reigning WAFL premiers Subiaco at Revo Fitness Stadium on Saturday.

The side was decimated by the absence of 15 men who had performed so well in the round one victory over West Perth the previous week, as well as three league regulars who were under suspension, plus another handful of injured or unwell players.

The 15 absentees, including captain Declan Mountford and Sandover medallists Jye Bolton and Bailey Rogers, were suffering from the coronavirus and were confined to barracks.

This left a mammoth hole in the side and led to the introduction of eight first-game players for the Tigers side and another nine young men with fewer than 12 league appearances. The only man to have played more than 35 league matches was acting captain Ryan Lim, a wonderful veteran of 131 games.

Claremont went into the contest with a total of 305 league matches, an average of 13.86 per man, whereas the Subiaco side included five men with more than one hundred league appearances under their belts, contributing to an overall total of 877 WAFL games at an average per player of 39.86. And that is a huge differential.

Also, the average age of the Claremont side was 21.40, compared with Subiaco’s average of 24.22.

This all contributed to a general feeling of gloom among Tigers supporters, most of whom considered that the odds were stacked massively in favour of the Subiaco Lions.   

Then on a sunny afternoon the youthful and inexperienced Tigers confounded, and delighted, their adoring supporters by producing one of the greatest victories --- against overwhelming odds --- in the history of the club. 

It was a sensational performance which ranks as one of the finest in the club’s history of 2011 league contests. It left me bursting with pride and admiration. To watch the incredible deeds of the 22 young men who wore the Tigers jumper with such spirit was emotionally draining and left me searching for superlatives to describe such an admirable and courageous display, truly one of the high points of witnessing Claremont in action over the past 75-odd years.

The marvellous 15-point victory was totally unexpected by the cognoscente, who were predicting a gallant fight but inevitable defeat. However, huge credit must go to coach Ash Prescott, who in the week leading up to the match was unwavering in his belief that victory was most achievable.

Both he and the club’s football operations manager Kepler Bradley exuded an air of optimism which permeated into the ranks of the foot soldiers. 

It was a miraculous win and a triumph for a collective team effort, with each and every member of the team playing his role. Several were forced to play in unfamiliar positions, and they did so with aplomb and with unfailing gusto and without a single complaint.

Discipline was a key ingredient, and faith and belief in each other’s ability paved the path to the 13.11 to 11.8 triumph on an unforgettable and memorable afternoon.

The victory also came as a celebration of Claremont’s policy of embracing its youth and fostering home-grown talent. It is well worth considering the fact that 21 of the 22 players in Saturday’s match were developed in the club’s metropolitan districts and its country zones of the Great Southern and the Kimberley.

In contrast, Subiaco, a club with a strong focus on recruiting, had only nine home-grown players in action on Saturday, with the other 13 having been recruited from a variety of clubs.

Few in the 2000-strong crowd had the slightest inkling in what was about to transpire when a rampant Subiaco led by 25 points, 5.2 to 1.1, early in the second quarter. 

But then in a golden six or seven-minute period 20-year-old midfielder Ben Elliott masterminded three goals, first with a pass to Timm House and then with two snaps, first with his preferred left foot and then with his right foot.

Soon afterwards Max Minear sent the ball high into attack where House revealed great strength to outmuscle the vastly experienced Subiaco full-back Jordan Lockyer and take a chest mark before booting the third of his four majors in a superb display in attack.

Three minutes later centreman Ben Edwards, who had begun the match brilliantly with three kicks in the opening five minutes in the first quarter, charged out of the centre and booted an inspirational goal from long range.

Claremont’s sixth goal for the quarter came at the 26-minute mark after 19-year-old debutant, centre-half-forward Talon Delacey soared skywards to pull down a great mark, and at half-time the scores were locked at 7.4 apiece.

The Tigers dictated terms in a hard-fought the second half, with Edwards, Elliott and Lim, on a wing, standing out with their sheer determination. There was not a passenger to be seen, and it was truly a match for the ages.

Everyone was playing his part, and the hugely unsung and inexperienced defence stood firm, despite the starting six in defence after half-time (Steve Miller, Jacob Blight, Cam Anderson, Alex Pearce, Charlie Malone and Marc Boyatzis) having had a combined total of 23 league appearances before the game.

Edwards and Elliott defied attacks of leg cramps as they continued to shine. Early in the third quarter an Elliott pass found 19-year-old livewire debutant Pat Kitchener, who booted the first of two goals for the term.

Elliott notched his third goal at the 22-minute mark of the quarter, and it was a kick from the left-footer late in the final quarter that resulted in Minear leaping high to take a splendid mark, followed by a goal that sealed victory.

The Tigers will not rest on their laurels as they prepare for what should be a tough encounter against the unbeaten South Fremantle Bulldogs at Fremantle Oval next Saturday.


Claremont 13.11 (89) beat Subiaco 11.8 (74)

Scorers---CLAREMONT: T. House 4.1; B. Elliott 3.0; T. Delacey, P. Kitchener 2.1; M. Minear 1.2; B. Edwards 1.1; I. Barton, J. Carter, L. Evans, R. Lim 0.1. SUBIACO: B. Sokol 3.0; R. Borchet 2.1; C. Robinson 2.0; A. Breman, S. Giro 1.1; K. Eaton, J. Stergiou 1.0; B. Golding 0.2; N. Ash 0.1; 2pts forced.

Best---CLAREMONT: B. Edwards, B. Elliott, R. Lim, T. House, O. Sheldrick, P. Kitchener, T. Smallwood, M. Minear. SUBIACO: S. Giro, A. Heal, L. Delahunty, J. Stergiou, L. Kitchin, L. Hickmott.