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ROUND 15 PREVIEW v SUBIACO

Friday, June 30, 2017 - 7:45 PM by Chris Pike
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WEST Perth celebrates its annual International Football Festival against Subiaco on Saturday at HBF Arena, but it's the four points that are crucial for the Falcons to remain in the WAFL's top five.

The International Football Festival has become one of the biggest days on the WAFL calendar and another big crowd is expected at the game on Saturday, but that can't detract from the importance of the contest for the Falcons in particular.

West Perth come into the game just clinging to fifth position just the one game clear of Claremont and two ahead of East Perth. A loss on Saturday and a win for the Tigers over Peel and the Falcons will be out of the top five.

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West Perth comes into the game on the back of losses to South Fremantle and Claremont. The Falcons have lost three of their past four since an impressive five-game winning streak had them banging on the door of the top two positions.

Having said all that, the challenge of getting back on the winner's list against Subiaco is a significant one for West Perth.

Subiaco is fresh coming off the bye and prior to that the Lions had won 11 straight matches since losing to South Fremantle way back in Round 1.

Aside from a thrilling four-point win over Peel in Round 11, West Perth has got the next closest to Subiaco in those run of 11 wins having lost by just 11 points back in Round 3 also at HBF Arena.

Subiaco has actually won seven of the past nine games against West Perth including the second semi-final and grand final of 2015.

Subiaco comes into Saturday's clash two games clear on top of the ladder and the Lions will want to ensure they remain clear of the second placed South Fremantle who do have a superior percentage.

As much as the game itself looks set to be an important and fascinating one, it's a big day on the WAFL calendar with the International Football Festival.

Highlighting the job West Perth has done for the now annual event, 6044 watched Subiaco win by two points back in 2012, 6195 watched East Fremantle win by 73 points in 2013, 5362 saw Subiaco win by 25 points in 2014, 7849 witness West Perth beat Subiaco in 2015 and then early last year the Lions beat the Falcons by 44 points in front of 6090 people.

There is plenty planned for the occasion again at HBF Arena on Saturday for all those in attendance to make it a day to remember and hopefully bring a whole new audience to the WAFL who will want to come back again.

West Perth coach Bill Monaghan knows the Falcons will need a significant lift to beat Subiaco.

"It doesn’t get any easier but we need to find a way to beat Subiaco and the players need to buy into that and they need to perform at a certain level. One thing you know when you play Subiaco is you have to be at your very best," Monaghan said.

"You can match it with them for a while so that’s going to be a great challenge that when we get an opportunity that we take them and that we restrict them during the periods of time that they’re in control. That’s the same with every side but Subiaco seem to get challenged a lot but sides can’t go with them for the four quarters. That will be our greatest challenge."

West Perth has backed in the makeshift ruckman for most of the season since demoting Seva Mozhaev following the Round 4 loss to South Fremantle, but 183-game veteran Chris Keunen looks set to have done enough to earn his call up on Saturday.

Injury meant his first half of 2017 was virtually ruined but the 2013 premiership ruckman has been building some form in the reserves in recent weeks. He had 29 possessions, 30 hit outs and a goal last week and now looks set to lead West Perth's ruck on Saturday.

That will lead to a bit of a reshuffle with Scott Simpson likely to settle at centre half-back. With Nick Rodda solid at full-back and Tyler Keitel and Michael Lourey in attack, it will be interesting to see how coach Bill Monaghan uses Mark Hamilton.

Former East Perth player Riley Hutchinson is also building some form in the reserves and is a chance to make his Falcons debut on Saturday following 12 possessions and some hardness last week against Claremont at Claremont Oval.

Aidan Lynch and Conal Lynch continued their strong reserves form as well for the Falcons to put themselves in the mix at the selection table this week.

Subiaco gets one important defender back following the bye with Aaron Heal right to return following his fractured jaw suffered against Peel in Round 11. Declan Jackson is still out for the Lions but having Heal back alongside Jordan Lockyer makes Subiaco's back-line significantly stronger.

Simon Parry is in the mix to make his Subiaco debut having previously played 19 league matches with Swan Districts with the last of those in Round 21, 2011. He played the last two games in the reserves for the Lions before the bye and was impressive enough to be in the selection mix.

James Garcia is the other Subiaco player making a case to earn a call up for his first league appearance since Round 2.

ROUND 15 – INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL FESTIVAL
WEST PERTH v SUBIACO – HBF ARENA, SATURDAY 2.15PM
Broadcast – 91.3 SportFM, Footy Radio (WAFL App)

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