The Subiaco Lions and South Fremantle Bulldogs will meet in their fourth grand final in 16 seasons on Saturday afternoon.
It couldn’t be a more perfect stage: 2019’s premiers taking on the reigning champions to reclaim their crown.
No two sides have met more times in the WAFL’s ultimate decider over across the 2000s than these two. Subiaco has also met West Perth three times in the time period, showing just how successful it has been.
It has culminated in an almost cosmically similar run to the grand final, with the Bulldogs losing to the Lions in the semi final before fighting back for a grand final rematch.
Last time, it was the Lions who took the cup back home. With the ledger sat squarely at 2-1 to Subi, The Inner Sanctum looks back at the three meetings across the past 20 years.
2006 – Subi smashing
The 2006 season was one dominated by three teams well ahead of the pack – Subiaco, South Fremantle, and Claremont. All three clubs sat atop the WAFL ladder, ordered accordingly, with monstrous 140+ percentages.
Subiaco only managed to lose two games across the season to finish with an 18-2 record. The first came against Swan Districts, in what was a record-breaking day for the club.
The Swans broke a 13 game losing streak to the Lions, doing so without best 22 locks Daniel Wulf, Shane Beros, Morris Coppin and Daniel Piani.
In that same round, South Fremantle put up a score of 35.23 (223) to demolish East Fremantle by 157 points. It was the highest score the WAFL had seen since 1987.
It seemed only fitting that the Lions suffered back-to-back losses as the only blemish on their season. They would go on to win 12 games straight on the road to the flag, by an average margin of 51 in the regular season.
The first mid-season encounter was a thriller, the Lions scraping over the line by seven points in a shoot-out. The Lions then improved the margin slightly in the second, winning by three goals.
A five goal turnaround in the semi final set the stage for what could be a magnificent grand final. The Leederville Oval crowd played witness to a thriller, and when the Bulldogs won from Claremont missing a kick after the siren in the preliminary final, the season’s climax was set.
To call it a disappointment would mean you’re a Bulldogs fan. Or a neutral.
It was complete Subiaco dominance after half time. A contested and close first half gave way to a 15 goal to five onslaught, led by Sam Larkins with seven to his name.
The Bulldogs were left licking their wounds, but would be back for revenge before long.
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2009 – Bulldogs end Lions reign
The 2006 win would start an era of dominance for the Lions, claiming a threepeat just as East Perth had to start the millennium.
Dominant victories over Claremont and Swan Districts cemented Subiaco as a pillar of the WAFL competition.
In 2007, a very young Daniel Rich helped his Lions dominate the Bulldogs in the preliminary final to send them embarrassingly packing by 95 points.
South Fremantle would then exit in the semi-final in 2008, going down to Swan Districts.
Having lost just a single game for the season by one point and dominating the grand final stage, the pride of Lions seemed very nearly invincible.
With a more even top four in 2009, the Bulldogs weren’t to be taken lightly. They finished minor premiers with a 15-5 record, with a point to prove.
The first meeting between the Lions and Bulldogs of the year went quite differently to the established norm, the boys in red and white handing their bogey team a 55-point loss on Easter Thursday.
While Subiaco got revenge in Round 13, South Fremantle struck back barely a month later.
Meeting for the fourth time in the season in the semi final, the Bulldogs had officially flipped the script, with a dominant 70 point win followed by a grand final win for the ages.
The Lions charged home with a seven goal last term, but the damage was already done. The South Fremantle Bulldogs were premiers again.
2019 – Six straight for Subiaco
If the 2000s were a dominant era for Subiaco, then the 2010s were a conquering of the competition.
From 2014 onwards, the Lions would appear in five straight grand finals, winning three and losing two, before coming up against the Bulldogs once again in 2019.
The controversial back-to-back losses to the Peel Thunder, bolstered by AFL talent from the Fremantle Dockers, still couldn’t take anything away from what is one of the best decades from a state league side not named Port Adelaide.
Subiaco finished as minor premiers once again, for the 17th time in the club’s history.
The Lions would only lose one game for the year, and weren’t overly prepared to lose another come the finals series.
South Fremantle’s path led it straight to Subiaco twice, after defeating Claremont in the qualifying final. The Lions got it done by 36 points in the semi final, while the Bulldogs took the chocolates over Claremont again in the preliminary.
It was another unfortunate demolition for the Bulldogs, who never looked in it from the first bounce. A 53-point half time lead blew out to 96 at the final siren, as Ben Sokol bagged six goals to claim the Simpson Medal.
Now celebrating 125 years, the Subiaco Lions have a chance to make history and win the club’s 16th premiership. It will put them one step closer to third placed East Perth, on 17 flags.
If South Fremantle wins, it will pull equal to Subiaco on 15 premierships apiece. Furthermore, the club will go back-to-back for the first time since the 50s, and pull the ledger in this growing rivalry to two grand finals each.
However the result falls, history will be made in the glory-filled annals of West Australian football.
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