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Friday, September 2, 2016 - 7:31 PM by Chris Pike
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WEST Perth is back for another WAFL finals campaign in 2016 and it gets underway on Saturday against South Fremantle in a qualifying final at Fremantle Community Bank Oval.

The WAFL finals begin at Fremantle Community Bank Oval on Saturday with the second placed South Fremantle hosting the third placed West Perth with Subiaco awaiting the winner.

The winner of Saturday's qualifying final will advance to next Sunday's second semi-final against Subiaco at Medibank Stadium with a grand final berth at stake.

The loser will host a first semi-final against the winner of Sunday's elimination final between Peel Thunder and East Perth at Bendigo Bank Stadium. The winner of that will then face the loser of the second semi-final in the preliminary final.

West Perth made a slow start to 2016 coming off last year's grand final appearance losing four of its first five matches.

But some injured players began to return and once Shane Nelson and Dean Munns came into the midfield, things turned around and the Falcons ended up winning 12 of their last 15 matches to finish with a 13-7 record to finish in third position.

South Fremantle has not made a WAFL finals series since 2011 when it lost a first semi-final to Subiaco and hasn’t won a final of any type at league level since the 2009 grand final.

But the Bulldogs have had a terrific 2016 season ending up with a 15-5 record in second position to earn the right to host the qualifying final. South Fremantle enters the finals on the back of a five-game winning streak.

There is a significant difference in finals experience among the two teams. Of West Perth's 25 squad members, only Corey Chalmers, Dean Munns, Jordan Mills, Luke Meadows, Joel Leeson, Mark Hamilton, Blake Wilhelm and Ben King haven’t played in a WAFL final.

Meanwhile at South Fremantle, only Ashton Hams, Ryan Cook, Blayne Wilson, Shaun Bewick, Dylan Main and Tom Vandeleur and Josh Pullman have played in at least one WAFL final previously.

But only Hams and Cook have done so with South Fremantle. Bewick did at West Perth, Main and Wilson with East Perth, Vandeleur at Peel Thunder and Pullman with Swan Districts.

South Fremantle and West Perth have met just twice this season and the Bulldogs won both encounters by 35 points – in Round 1 at Fremantle Community Bank Oval and in Round 14 at HBF Arena.

West Perth coach Bill Monaghan is glad to be back in the finals after the slow start to the season and is looking forward to finding out how his Falcons are travelling against the Bulldogs.

"It's a whole new ball game. You play 23 rounds and 20 games to eliminate four sides, it's a long process to get to here. The players have worked really hard after we were 1-4," Monaghan said.

"To get into a position of winning 12 of our last 15 is a fantastic effort for them to physically and mentally turn it around. Now it's a whole new world in the finals and we are going to need to be at our very best and a lot better than we were this week. The players know that.

"South at Fremantle is what the fixture says and we don’t hold any fears. South have been a really good side for the year so we will just prepare well mentally and physically, have a look at them and head down to the port next week. Hopefully for everyone who is there it's a cracking game."

West Perth has four key players ready to return for the qualifying final on Saturday against South Fremantle giving coach Bill Monaghan and his coaching staff plenty to think about given the 22 who played in the final round against Swan Districts performed solidly.

Shane Nelson is ready to return from the broken nose and fractured cheekbone he suffered during the last quarter back in Round 20 against Subiaco at Kingsway Reserve. He has averaged over 35 possessions a game in 2016 and will add further bit to the Falcons' midfield.

Tyler Keitel is another West Perth player who had a tremendous season before hurting an ankle back in Round 21. He missed last week's game against Swans but will be right to return on Saturday as the Falcons try to keep in check Mason Shaw and Ben Saunders forward for South Fremantle.

Steve Potente has battled some niggling injuries throughout the latter part of the season but when on the field he has just about been in career-best form so he should be another to return if 100 per cent healthy for West Perth

Then there's tagger Dean Munns who missed last week through illness but has done some remarkable stopping jobs this season and will look to do another on Saturday likely to be either on Ashton Hams or Tim Kelly.

At this stage, Drew Rohde is the only out for West Perth from the team that beat Swan Districts last week but three other players are likely still needed to make room for those returning.

South Fremantle has four key players to welcome back who didn’t play in the final round victory over Perth at Lathlain Park.

State midfielder Tim Kelly hasn’t played since injuring a hamstring in Round 20 in Carnarvon against Perth, but he looks right to return on Saturday to further strengthen a midfield that has been performing strongly.

Josh Pullman, Brock Higgins and Shane Hockey also didn’t play in the last round against the Demons but are automatic inclusions now to face West Perth on Saturday.

Pullman comes straight back into the back-line and will likely match up on West Perth forward Michael Lourey while Higgins will take over the ruck duties up against Chris Keunen and Hockey is back into the midfield to add some further grunt for the Bulldogs.

The only out at this stage for South Fremantle is last week's debutant ruckman Tim English but three other players from last week will need to make way for the other players locked in to return.

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