ROUND 18 of the 2012 WAFL season sees Swan Districts and East Fremantle fight over second spot and the chance to go top while West Perth looks to keep its finals hopes alive and Peel and Perth are out to edge clear of wooden spoon contention.
All four matches this weekend take place in the traditional 2.10pm time slot on Saturday afternoon with plenty riding on the results.
Swan Districts plays East Fremantle at Bassendean's Steel Blue Oval, West Perth hosts Claremont at Arena Joondalup, Subiaco faces South Fremantle at Leederville's Medibank Stadium and Peel Thunder takes on Perth at Mandurah's Bendigo Bank Stadium.
The fourth-placed East Perth has the bye.
SWAN DISTRICTS (10-4, 3rd) v EAST FREMANTLE (10-4, 2nd) – STEEL BLUE OVAL, SATURDAY 2.10PM
The winner of Saturday's massive clash at Steel Blue Oval between Swan Districts and East Fremantle will move clear in second spot on the ladder and also potentially move to the top of the ladder.
Swans and the Sharks currently sit in second and third spots on the ladder with East Fremantle only in front courtesy of percentage. Both have 10-4 records so the winner will shoot a game clear with just five matches of the 2012 home and away season remaining.
Claremont currently sits on top of the ladder with a 10-4 record as well but a superior percentage to both East Fremantle and Swan Districts. However, if the Tigers don't happen to beat West Perth at the same time on Saturday, the winner out of the Swans-Sharks clash will sit atop the table.
This week's game for East Fremantle is the second in a run of three massive clashes against the teams in the top-four. Last week, the Sharks were dominant beating East Perth at home by 64 points to move up into second spot on the ladder.
Now, the Sharks are looking to turnaround a 41-point loss to Swan Districts at East Fremantle Oval back in Round 10 and if they do, it will set up an opportunity for East Fremantle to move a game clear on top of the ladder when it takes on Claremont next week at Claremont Oval.
Swan Districts has had an outstanding season to date following a disappointing six-win 2011 campaign, but it was a tired and undermanned Swans outfit two weeks ago that was hammered by Claremont by 97 points at Claremont Oval.
That came after an eight-point loss at home to West Perth as well and it has seen Swans go from being a game and-a-half clear on top of the ladder to now be in third position coming into this clash with the Sharks.
The bye last week was Swans' first break since the state game, though, so they were a tired outfit that took on the Tigers and undermanned also without Tallan Ames, Ashley Hansen, Jarrhan Jacky, Wayde Twomey and Murray Newman.
There are some big inclusions as a result for Swans this week to take on East Fremantle with Hansen, Ames and Twomey all returning along with Brent Latch, Roderick Manton, Lachie Neale, Dayle Garlett and Brett van Groningen.
Michael Walters, Ray Daniels, Jai Menegola, Alex Howard, Matthew Jukes and the suspended Graham Jetta are all out for the black-and-whites.
West Coast's Mitch Brown returns for East Fremantle to further strengthen an already rock solid defence with Justin Monaco, Adrian Ricciardello and Sam Menegola pushing to return to the forward-line with Jack Perham going out of the side.
WEST PERTH (7-1-6, 5th) v CLAREMONT (10-4, 1st) – ARENA JOONDALUP, SATURDAY 2.10PM
West Perth and Claremont do battle at Arena Joondalup in a clash that is crucial to both sides but for very different reasons.
West Perth had a tough start to the season losing five of its first eight games, but has been steadily improving since to now still be the only side outside of the four remaining a chance to make the finals.
The Falcons have now won their last two games and four of their last six with a draw thrown in there as well. West Perth only just sneaked home last week by three points against South Fremantle, but that was enough to leave the Falcons just two games behind fourth-placed East Perth.
With East Perth and West Perth to also meet in Round 24 this season, the Falcons only need to make up one game on the Royals between now and then to set up a virtual elimination final in that last round.
However, West Perth needs to keep winning to stay alive and it's a big task to do that against a Claremont team that is now playing its best football of the season.
The Tigers qualified for the Foxtel Cup grand final last week by beating the VFL's Port Melbourne by 50 points at Patersons Stadium, but before that they thumped Swan Districts by 97 points at Claremont Oval on the back of victories over South Fremantle and Subiaco.
That has taken Claremont to the top of the ladder equal on points with East Fremantle and Swan Districts, but with a vastly superior percentage. The Tigers' destiny remains in their own hands now and if they keep winning they can take out the minor premiership.
Claremont scored a comfortable 45-point win over West Perth back Round 4 at Claremont Oval and that was on the back of the Tigers thumping the Falcons by 85 points in last year's second semi-final on their way to the premiership.
However, West Perth did beat Claremont twice last season before that and will be hoping to do so again on Saturday at home to keep its finals hopes alive.
Fremantle's Jay van Berlo was outstanding for West Perth last week in the win over South Fremantle with 27 possessions, but has been named as an out for the side to take on the Tigers.
However, 103-game AFL veteran with Port Adelaide Michael Pettigrew is a welcome returnee for the Falcons with Darcy Barden, Laine Rasmussen, Joe Morrow and Nick Rodda also pushing their cases forward for a spot in the league side at West Perth.
Nick Suban, Tom Swift and Ryan Neates are three important outs at this stage for Claremont from the team that thumped Swan Districts by 97 points two weeks ago prior to the Foxtel Cup win over Port Melbourne last week.
Fremantle's Alex Silvagni returns, though, to further strengthen an already strong back-line with premiership forward Andrew Foster also back after playing in the Foxtel Cup last week and having 18 disposals.
Mitch Andrews is a chance to return to partner Andrew Ruck in the ruck with Anton Hamp, Thomas Taylor and Brad Nisbett also pushing for selection and to press a case to be part of the side come finals time.
SUBIACO (6-8, 6th) v SOUTH FREMANTLE (3-12, 9th) – MEDIBANK STADIUM, SATURDAY 2.10PM
Subiaco and South Fremantle might be all but out of the finals race for 2012, but the two proud and recently dominant clubs will be looking to get the four points just as ferociously as ever on Saturday at Medibank Stadium.
Subiaco and South Fremantle have won seven of the last nine WAFL premierships between them and been regular finals participants over the last decade, but it doesn’t appear to be the case again in 2012.
Despite Subiaco and South Fremantle playing in finals as recently as last year when the Lions beat the Bulldogs in a first semi-final, they have both suffered a mass turnover of players that has been the main reason for their fall down the ladder.
Subiaco all but fell out of the finals race last week with a 38-point loss at home to Peel Thunder, but from the team that beat South Fremantle in the finals last year Shaun Hildebrandt, Brad Stevenson, Danny Hughes, Michael Rix, Adam Cockie, Kyal Horsley and Allistair Pickett are gone.
South Fremantle is now in unfamiliar territory at the bottom of the ladder following a three-point home loss to West Perth last week that was the Bulldogs' eighth straight defeat.
Cory Dell'Olio, Hayden North, Morgan Cooper, Ashton Hams, Josh Head, Damian Hayward, Paul Hasleby, Matthew Leece, Callum Wilson, Toby Bairstow, Theo Adams, Reece Adams, Ryan Murphy and Craig White are all gone from the team that played in the finals last year that will take on Subiaco this week.
The game has the likelihood to be high-scoring as the majority of recent Subiaco-South Fremantle battles have been, especially when out of finals contention highlighted by the final round meeting in 2010 that saw Subiaco win 33.9 (207) to 21.18 (144).
Subiaco gains and loses some quality players at selection with state centre half-forward Callum Sinclair leading the list of inclusions and Rob Forrest heading the outs.
Matthew Cullen, Conor Davidson, Chris Deluca, Scott Douglas and Brett Mahoney are also pressing for a spot in the side for the Lions with Chris Phelan and Scott Worthington joining Forrest out of the team.
South Fremantle loses the retired Hayden North and five-gamer Adam Doughty with veteran Toby McGrath back from suspension and Jarrad Winter returning after 29 possessions and two goals in the reserves last week against West Perth.
PEEL THUNDER (4-10, 8th) v PERTH (4-10, 7th) – BENDIGO BANK STADIUM, SATURDAY 2.10PM
Peel Thunder and Perth will be desperate to avoid another wooden spoon and can go a long way to avoiding it for 2012 with a win on Saturday at Mandurah's Bendigo Bank Stadium.
Over the past 10 years, Peel has only not finished last or second last once and Perth has collected two wooden spoons as well, and both remain a chance to finish last again if they don't win on Saturday.
South Fremantle does currently sit in last position three wins behind Peel and Perth who have won four games apiece, but the Bulldogs have a better percentage than both meaning that the Demons and Thunder must remain a game ahead to avoid finishing last.
Peel has now won two of its last three games under new coach Mark Moody and the wins over South Fremantle and Subiaco were impressive, while the Thunder was also competitive in a 29-point loss to East Perth.
Perth's 2012 season has far from gone to plan or expectation, but the Demons recorded a good 34-point win over South Fremantle two weeks ago before a bye and will be looking to win two straight for the first time this season and in the process move well clear of bottom spot.
Peel and Perth have been separated by precious little in recent years and indeed over the Thunder's history, their record of 15 wins from 39 games is their best against any opponent.
Perth held on to win a thriller by five points earlier this season in Round 3 while the Demons also won two of the three meetings last year after Peel won two of the three in the three previous seasons.
Peel hasn’t omitted anyone at this stage from the side that beat Subiaco impressively by 38 points last week, but Tom Sheridan, Liam McKenna, Rhett Mason and Drew Robinson are pushing for selection.
Fremantle's Sheridan has been in outstanding form with Peel this season averaging almost 19 touches a game while McKenna had 24 possessions last week in the reserves, Mason is back after missing last week and former Demon Robinson could make his debut for Peel.
Robinson played 45 games for Perth from 2008 up until Round 10 this season and proved himself a strong ball winner across half-back or in the middle. He averaged almost 18 possessions over his 45 games with the Demons.
Perth had a good win over South Fremantle prior to a bye last week and from that team that beat the Bulldogs Ben Fraser, Cameron Manuel and Chris Vidot go out of that side. Key forward Fraser McInnes has also travelled with the West Coast Eagles and looks a chance to make his AFL debut.
Rob de Jongh could be the big man to come in to replace McInnes as the former Royal can also help out Llane Spaanderman in the ruck.
Joel Houghton kicked three goals in the last game in the reserves against South Fremantle and could also return to the league side along with Chris Billings, Alistair Smith, Simon Tunbridge, Michael Florio and Matthew Rogers.